The Department of Defense announced April 15 that its decision to award a $10 billion cloud computing contract to Microsoft instead of Amazon was in line with legal and government purchasing standards.
“The Inspector’s General final report on the JEDI Cloud procurement confirms that the Department of Defense (DOD) conducted the JEDI Cloud procurement process fairly and in accordance with law,” a statement from the DOD reads, following the public release of a report by the Department of Defense Inspector General (IG), a watchdog agency for the DOD.
“The IG’s team found that there was no influence by the White House or DOD leadership on the career source selection boards who made the ultimate vendor selection,” the DOD statement continued.
“This report should finally close the door on corporate-driven attacks on the career procurement officials who have been working tirelessly to get the much needed JEDI Cloud computing environment into the hands of our frontline warfighters while continuing to protect American taxpayers.”
The cloud computing contract, known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI), is intended to give the U.S. military better access to data and technology from remote locations. The computing system will store and process a large amount of classified data and enable the Pentagon to speed up real-time sharing of information across the military, thereby improving its war planning and fighting capabilities.
In October 2019, Microsoft won the $10 billion contract to build the JEDI computing system, which the Pentagon had said was expected to be completed by 2029.
Tech rival Amazon, formerly a front runner in the contentious bidding process for the contract, blamed President Donald Trump for bias against the company and for improperly pressuring the Pentagon. In November 2019, the company sued the Pentagon. Work on the project has been halted as the lawsuit proceeds.
Amazon has said that the Pentagon’s decision to award Microsoft the contract was full of “egregious errors” and was a result of “improper pressure from President Donald Trump.”
Trump has criticized Amazon head Jeff Bezos and also Amazon, and has accused The Washington Post, owned by Bezos, of unfair coverage.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in November 2019 that he was satisfied the Pentagon made its choice fairly and without external influence.
In its report (pdf), the Pentagon’s inspector general found no evidence of White House interference in the contract award process.
“Our review of the JEDI Cloud procurement concluded that the DoD’s decision to award the JEDI Cloud contract to a single contractor was consistent with applicable law and acquisition standards,” the report reads.
The inspector general noted that the review “did not assess the appropriateness of the DoD’s award of the JEDI Cloud contract to Microsoft rather than AWS [Amazon Web Services].”
“We did not review the merits of the contractors’ proposals or DoD’s technical or price evaluations; rather, we reviewed the source selection process and whether it was in compliance with applicable statutes, policies, and the evaluation process described in the Request for Proposals, and also whether it was influenced by outside pressure,” the report noted.
The report stated that it couldn’t fully review whether there was any White House influence on the JEDI cloud procurement.
“We could not review this matter fully because of the assertion of a ‘presidential communications privilege,’ which resulted in several DoD witnesses being instructed by the DoD Office of General Counsel not to answer our questions about potential communications between White House and DoD officials about JEDI,’” the report stated.
“Therefore, we could not definitively determine the full extent or nature of interactions that administration officials had, or may have had, with senior DoD officials regarding the JEDI Cloud procurement.
“As a result, we could not be certain whether there were any White House communications with some DoD officials, which may have affected the JEDI procurement.
“We believe the evidence we received showed that the DoD personnel who evaluated the contract proposals and awarded Microsoft the JEDI cloud contract were not pressured … by any DoD leaders more senior to them, who may have communicated with the White House,” the report stated.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.