By Ronn Blitzer
Published July 25, 2019
The Pentagon is gearing up to award a massive $10 billion winner-take-all contract for cloud computing, but 12 members of Congress are pushing President Trump to hold off on the award until after the conclusion of an investigation related to one of the bidders.
The finalists for the large contract -- known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) -- are Amazon and Microsoft, but allegations about conflicts of interest related to Amazon are currently under investigation by the Defense Department's Inspector General's Office. The concerns are based on Defense Department staffers who worked on the deal who previously or subsequently worked for Amazon, or in at least once case, both. The contract is expected to be awarded as soon as August 23.
"It is unclear if the [Inspector General's Office] will issue its findings prior to the [Department of Defense's] expected award date in August," the lawmakers wrote in their Tuesday letter, which was obtained by Fox News. "Therefore, we request that your Administration instruct [the Defense Department] not to award JEDI until the [Inspector General's Office] has had an opportunity to complete and report on its investigation."
The lawmakers who signed Tuesday's letter are all Republicans and include Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz and Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio sent a similar letter to national security adviser John Bolton last Thursday, seeking a delay to the awarding of the JEDI contract due to a "lack of competition."
A bid protest complaint from Oracle, who had also bid on the contract, pointed to the involvement of former Defense Department employee Deap Ubhi, who worked at Amazon before joining the Defense Department in August 2016. Ubhi is now at Amazon once again -- working with Amazon Web Services, Inc. (AWS), the entity that handles cloud computing.
Oracle claimed that Ubhi influenced the decision to grant a single contract so that Amazon could get it. They also said he was involved in setting high standards for bidders that essentially limited the field to Amazon and Microsoft. AWS said in a court filing that Oracle overstated Ubhi’s role in JEDI.
Defense Department spokeswoman Heather Babb told Fox News that the department investigated allegations of conflicts of interest, but ultimately found that the JEDI process was not improperly affected.
"While some potential ethics concerns were raised that have been referred to the DoD OIG, DoD has concluded that there is no adverse impact on the integrity of the acquisition process," Babb said.
A federal judge ruled against Oracle earlier this month, leaving the Defense Department left with Amazon and Microsoft as the two finalists.
Last week, President Trump commented on the JEDI contract and said that his administration would "take a very long look" at it.
"I’m getting tremendous complaints about the contract with the Pentagon and with Amazon,” Trump said when asked about the matter. "They’re saying it wasn’t competitively bid."
Trump has feuded for years with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The president has also criticized the Washington Post, which Bezos owns.
Meanwhile, Rep. James Langevin, D-R.I., has expressed opposition to any interference from Trump, given challenges to the bidding process have already been addressed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.