Pentagon watchdog unable to 'definitively' determine if White House influenced JEDI contract

Pentagon watchdog unable to 'definitively' determine if White House influenced JEDI contract
© Greg Nash

The Pentagon's watchdog in a report released on Wednesday said it was not able to "definitively determine" whether the White House influenced the Department of Defense's (DOD) decision to award a $10 billion cloud-computing contract to Microsoft over Amazon.

The department's inspector general office said it was unable to rule on the issue because the DOD's general counsel instructed witnesses not to answer questions about conversations between the White House and Pentagon because of “the assertion of a ‘presidential communications privilege.’”

The report did find, however, that department personnel who evaluated proposals and awarded the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract were not pressured by any senior Pentagon leaders.

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The 317-page document also determined that giving the JEDI contract to a single company — Microsoft — rather than dividing it among competitors was “consistent with applicable acquisition standards.”

The Pentagon awarded the lucrative military contract to Microsoft in October of last year.

Amazon quickly filed a lawsuit seeking to halt or overhaul the contract, claiming the process was improperly influenced by President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE, who publicly and privately indicated that he did not want the contract to go to Amazon, which is owned by a frequent target of the president's criticism, Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosHearing for Twitter hack suspect Zoom-bombed by porn, rap music Five takeaways from Big Tech's blowout earnings Hillicon Valley: Trump raises idea of delaying election, faces swift bipartisan pushback | Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google release earnings reports | Senators ask Justice Department to investigate TikTok, Zoom MORE.  

The report released Wednesday also evaluated claims made by Oracle, who had been cut in a previous round of bidding for the contract, that some Pentagon employees were favoring Amazon with unethical behavior.

The watchdog's report added evidence to allegations of ethical misconduct against Deap Ubhi, a Pentagon employee involved in the early stages of the JEDI program who then went to work for Amazon.

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However, the inspector general did not find evidence of ethical misconduct by other senior defense officials, including former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisTrump advisers were wary of talking military options over fears he'd accidentally start war: report Trump prizes loyalty over competence — we are seeing the results Lawmakers torch Trump plan to pull 11,900 troops from Germany MORE, who attended a dinner with Amazon officials organized by his former aide Sally Donnelly.

Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Robert Carver said in a statement that Wednesday's report "confirms that the Department of Defense conducted the JEDI Cloud procurement process fairly and in accordance with the law."

"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," he said, although the watchdog explicitly said it could not determine the "full extent or nature of interactions" that administration officials had with the DoD over the contract.

"This report should finally close the door on the media and 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," Carver continued.

Microsoft spokesperson Frank Shaw said that Wednesday's report "makes clear the DoD established a proper procurement process."

“At this stage, Amazon is both delaying critical work for the nation’s military and trying to undo the mistake it made when it bid too high a price," he added in a statement.

Updated: 4:19 p.m.