- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 26, 2019

Microsoft has won the Pentagon’s prized $10 billion “war cloud” contract, the Defense Department announced late Friday, beating out frontrunner Amazon Web Services in a stunning decision that comes after public criticism by President Trump of the Pentagon’s bidding process.

The choice of Microsoft to run the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud ends months of drama inside the Defense Department and would seem to satisfy critics — including the president — who complained that the Pentagon did not competitively bid the contract and had planned to award it to Amazon all along. It will also fuel speculation that Mr. Trump put private pressure on the Pentagon to deny Amazon the deal.

“The National Defense Strategy dictates that we must improve the speed and effectiveness with which we develop and deploy modernized technical capabilities to our women and men in uniform,” Defense Department Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy said in a statement. “The DoD Digital Modernization Strategy was created to support this imperative. This award is an important step in execution of the Digital Modernization Strategy.”

Still, the Pentagon made clear that no “single supplier” can meet all of its information needs, suggesting there will continue to be roles for other companies in the future that “continues our strategy of a multi-vendor, multi-cloud environment as the department’s needs are diverse and cannot be met by any single supplier,” the Defense Department said.

The JEDI contract — which could last up to 10 years and ultimately be worth $10 billion over the life of the deal — will cover the storage and processing of huge amounts of classified Pentagon data, and Microsoft will now be linked in an unprecedented high-tech partnership with the U.S. military. The cloud, its proponents say, will enable the immediate sharing of data to battlefields around the world and would greatly aid the U.S. military in virtually everything it does.

Amazon and Microsoft were the only two companies left in the running by the time of Friday evening’s announcement. Oracle Corp, which initially expressed interest in the deal, filed a lawsuit earlier this year alleging behind-the-scenes dealings between Amazon and the Pentagon. A judge last summer dismissed that lawsuit, and the Pentagon has vehemently denied giving any preferential treatment to Amazon.

IBM also initially bid on the contract.

A host of lawmakers and even Mr. Trump have raised questions about whether the Defense Department structured the contract in a way that favored Amazon.

“I’m getting tremendous complaints about the contract with the Pentagon and with Amazon. They’re saying it wasn’t competitively bid,” Mr. Trump said in July. “And I will be asking them to look at it very closely to see what’s going on because I have had very few things where there’s been such complaining.”

Shortly after the president’s comments, Defense Secretary Mark Esper launched an internal review of the JEDI process. Earlier this week, Mr. Esper recused himself from the final decision, citing a conflict of interest related to his son’s employment with a company that bid on the contract. That left Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist to make the final call on the award.

The Pentagon also said it conferred with its inspector general before making the announcement.

“All offers were treated fairly and evaluated consistently with the solicitation’s stated evaluation criteria. Prior to the award, the department conferred with the DOD Inspector General, which informed the decision to proceed,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

In its own statement, Amazon maintained it would’ve been the right choice.

“We’re surprised about this conclusion,” an Amazon Web Services spokesperson said in a statement. “AWS is the clear leader in cloud computing, and a detailed assessment purely on the comparative offerings clearly lead to a different conclusion. We remain deeply committed to continuing to innovate for the new digital battlefield where security, efficiency, resiliency, and scalability of resources can be the difference between success and failure.”

While the White House has denied that Mr. Trump involved himself in the Pentagon’s bidding process, his distaste for Amazon and its founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, is common knowledge. Mr. Bezos also owns The Washington Post, one of the president’s frequent media targets.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide