Republican lawmakers issue dueling letters over Pentagon 'war cloud' contract

Republican lawmakers issue dueling letters over Pentagon 'war cloud' contract
© Greg Nash

Republican lawmakers this week issued dueling letters over the Pentagon’s $10 billion “war cloud” contract, with one group calling for the deal to be delayed amid concerns that it favors Amazon above other companies, while others insisted the cloud-computing contract should be wrapped up by this summer.

In a letter obtained by The Hill, a dozen GOP lawmakers urged President TrumpDonald John TrumpFlorida GOP lawmaker says he's 'thinking' about impeachment Democrats introduce 'THUG Act' to block funding for G-7 at Trump resort Kurdish group PKK pens open letter rebuking Trump's comparison to ISIS MORE to delay the war cloud contract over long-standing allegations that the contract is biased toward Amazon. 

The letter, dated July 23, asked Trump to discourage the Department of Defense (DOD) from awarding the contract before the Pentagon’s watchdog office has completed an investigation into potential conflicts of interest. The Pentagon inspector general's office is looking into allegations that some DOD employees drew up the contract with Amazon in mind due to close ties with the company.

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The 12 House Republicans who signed on to the letter are not on the House Armed Services Committee, which oversees the Defense Department. Most of the lawmakers do not sit on any defense-related committees, and the letter does not mention Amazon by name.

"JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure) is a winner-take all contract that will go to a single company to provide cloud computing services to DOD for ten years," they wrote. "OIG [Office of Inspector General] is investigating because DOD employees involved in JEDI had previous ties to or left DOD to work for a company bidding for the contract without properly recusing themselves."

"It is unclear if OIG will issue its findings prior to the DOD's expected award date in August," they continued. "We request that your Administration instruct DOD not to award JEDI until the OIG has had an opportunity to complete and report on its investigation." 

In a separate letter on Thursday obtained by The Hill, two members of the House Armed Services Committee — Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) and Rep. Paul CookPaul Joseph CookThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump eyes narrowly focused response to Iran attacks Pelosi: Democrats will 'certainly' beat Trump in 2020 GOP struggles with retirement wave MORE (R-Calif.) — argued the contract should be awarded as soon as possible for national security purposes.

“This contract has already been delayed a year for investigations and court filings,” Banks and Cook wrote. “Further delays make DOD fall behind and DOD needs this technology now. The cloud makes the military a more lethal, agile and innovative force.”

“Awarding JEDI now means our warfighters will have access to critical information faster, which will help them accomplish missions and safely return to their families,” they added.

The document echoes a separate letter sent last week from four GOP House Armed Services Committee members, including ranking member Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryFurious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Five ways Trump's Syria decision spells trouble Cheney slated to introduce bill to place sanctions on Turkey MORE (Texas).

"Our committee has conducted oversight of this contract from the beginning," the lawmakers wrote. "While it is understandable that some of the companies competing for the contract are disappointed at not being selected as one of the finalists, further unnecessary delays will only damage our security and increase the costs of the contract."

The letters, both addressed to Trump, are the latest attempts by lawmakers to weigh in on how the contract — also known as JEDI — was constructed and how it will be doled out.

This week’s action from Capitol Hill follows critical remarks from Trump, who said last week that he would ask his administration to look “closely” at allegations that the Department of Defense favored Amazon when it drew up the contract.

“Some of the greatest companies in the world are complaining about it, having to do with Amazon and the Department of Defense," Trump said, adding, “I have had very few things where there’s been such complaining." 

A stream of Republican lawmakers in recent weeks have sent letters to the president over the contract. Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHillicon Valley: GOP lawmakers offer election security measure | FTC Dem worries government is 'captured' by Big Tech | Lawmakers condemn Apple over Hong Kong censorship Lawmakers condemn Apple, Activision Blizzard over censorship of Hong Kong protesters Youth climate activists get Miami Beach to declare climate emergency MORE (R-Fla.) — who has been accused of having close ties to one of Amazon's top competitors in the process, Oracle — penned a letter to Trump asking him to delay the deal earlier this month, followed by others. 

Rubio, critics have pointed out, received millions of dollars from Oracle during his presidential campaign.

Nearly all of the lawmakers involved in the discussions have received thousands of dollars in campaign donations from Amazon and Microsoft, the two top contenders for the JEDI contract. And some have received contributions from Oracle, a smaller competitor that has launched an aggressive campaign to open up the cloud-computing deal to other companies.

The bitter battle over the lucrative JEDI contract, which would allow one company to create cloud-computing infrastructure for the department, has dragged on for more than a year. The contract is expected to be awarded sometime next month to either Microsoft's cloud-computing arm, Azure, or Amazon's, Amazon Web Services. Experts have noted it's most likely to be Amazon, given the company's cloud-computing capabilities. 

Oracle, a smaller software company with cloud-computing services, has accused the DOD of writing the contract specifically for Amazon, which the Pentagon and Amazon have both categorically denied. The DOD has responded that Oracle did not meet the standards laid out by the JEDI contract, and a federal judge earlier this month ruled Oracle did not have evidence to substantiate its claims.

Several government investigations have cleared the DOD of nefarious activity, though the Pentagon’s inspector general is continuing to investigate some ethics concerns. Amazon has continued to insist it is the company best-equipped to handle the breadth of sensitive and classified data that the contract calls for.

A group of former military leaders and chief information officers this week also released a report calling for JEDI to be “rescinded and revised,” arguing it is counter to the DOD’s cloud strategy.

“Where the JEDI RFP [request for proposal] stipulates a single, static cloud solution, the strategy outlines a rich environment including multiple cloud solutions,” the report from the Information Technology Acquisition Advisory Council reads.

The DOD declined to comment to The Hill on Thursday.