New Pentagon chief orders review of 'war cloud' contract after Trump threats

Mark EsperMark EsperOvernight Defense: Trump reportedly considering replacing Esper after election | FBI, Air Force investigating after helicopter shot at in Virginia | Watchdog says UK envoy made inappropriate comments on religion, race, sex Trump eyes replacing Esper after election: reports Overnight Defense: Esper confirms plans to drop below 5,000 troops in Afghanistan | State Department says it's cleared of wrongdoing in emergency arms sales before investigation's release MORE, the newly appointed Pentagon chief, ordered a review of the Defense Department's "war cloud" contract after President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Bob Woodward book will include details of 25 personal letters between Trump and Kim Jong Un On The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' Biden commemorates anniversary of Charlottesville 'Unite the Right' rally: 'We are in a battle for the soul of our nation' MORE threatened to investigate whether it was written with a bias toward Amazon.

A Department of Defense (DOD) spokeswoman confirmed the probe in a statement on Thursday.

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"Keeping his promise to Members of Congress and the American public, Secretary Esper is looking at the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) program," Elissa Smith, the DOD spokeswoman, said, referring to the highly controversial $10 billion cloud-computing contract.

"No decision will be made on the program until he has completed his examination," she added.

Esper was sworn in as Defense secretary late last month, after the Senate confirmed him in a 90-8 vote.

"Secretary Esper is committed to ensuring our warfighters have the best capabilities, including artificial intelligence, to remain the most lethal force in the world, while safeguarding taxpayer dollars," Smith said.

Esper's investigation comes two years after the JEDI contract was announced, and months into a bitter battle between some of the country's largest tech companies over who will get to profit from the deal.

Trump raised the stakes a few weeks ago when he said publicly he would order his administration to look “closely” at allegations that the DOD 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 have sent letters to Trump in the weeks since, with some — including Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioDemocrats ramp up warnings on Russian election meddling Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Lincoln Project expands GOP target list, winning Trump ire MORE (R-Fla.) — urging him to delay the contract over the bias allegations while others — including the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, which oversees the DOD — emphasized there is little evidence to substantiate any allegations of unfair treatment.

Amazon and Microsoft's cloud-computing services are the final contenders for the contract, which is expected to supercharge DOD's war capabilities, including on the battlefield. Amazon Web Services has been largely favored to win the lucrative deal, as it says it is best-equipped to store the necessary top-secret and highly classified information.

Some analysts have predicted Microsoft's cloud-computing service, Azure, could be brought on to accompany Amazon within a few years even if Amazon gets the deal.

The battle over JEDI has been the subject of over a year of intensive lobbying by companies including Microsoft, Amazon and Oracle, a smaller cloud-computing competitor which has accused the DOD of favoring Amazon due to conflicts of interest.

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 concluded that the contract was drawn up fairly.

But Esper's probe could elongate the already-stalled effort. The contract was supposed to be doled out by the end of August.

Amazon and Microsoft declined to comment on Thursday.

Updated at 5:10 p.m.