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The Pentagon is hitting pause on awarding its $10 billion cloud computing contract until the Defense Department examines whether the process was rigged in favor of Amazon, according to Business Insider.
“Keeping his promise to Members of Congress and the American public, Secretary Esper is looking at the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) program,” a Pentagon spokesperson said in a statement Thursday. “No decision will be made on the program until he has completed his examination.”
The contract was supposed to be awarded sometime this month.
The entire contracting process, which involves bids from companies like Oracle, Microsoft, Amazon, and IBM, has been steeped in controversy over the past few weeks. First, Google dropped out of the race after employees petitioned against the contract, raising concerns over the ethics of supplying its technology to the military. But tensions rose late last month when President Donald Trump suggested that Amazon was involved in a conspiracy to win the deal and create a “Ten-Year DoD Cloud Monopoly.”
Per source familiar – this is the chart produced by Amazon opponents referenced in the CNN story .. that CNN says found its way onto Trump’s desk https://t.co/suaaJXE5Zn pic.twitter.com/wItQ8KHIpp— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) July 26, 2019
That theory was reportedly similar to one created by Oracle’s executive vice president, Ken Glueck, along with one of the company’s Washington lobbyists. Oracle had also raised similar concerns in a December lawsuit against the Defense Department, claiming that the Pentagon’s requirements for the contract were created in a way that favored Amazon, making it easier for the e-commerce and cloud-computing giant to win the bidding process.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have also gotten involved in the process in recent weeks, sending letters to the president requesting for the contract to be delayed until officials could examine the awards process. “This contract has already been delayed a year for investigations and court filings,” two Republicans wrote in one letter. “Further delays make DOD fall behind and DOD needs this technology now. The cloud makes the military a more lethal, agile and innovative force.”
One letter, from 12 House Republicans, was dated the same day Mark Esper assumed his role as secretary of defense.
Outside of the JEDI contract, Trump has had loud and public disagreements with Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos. In December, he accused the company of scamming the Postal Service on delivery rates. More recently, Trump referred to The Washington Post newspaper (which is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos) as a “Russian asset” for coverage he perceived as unfavorable.