Pentagon barred from discussing Trump in JEDI contract probe

Pentagon barred from discussing Trump in JEDI contract probe

“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. “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.”

The Pentagon in October awarded the JEDI contract to Microsoft, which beat out Amazon for the up-to-$10 billion program to build the Pentagon’s cloud architecture that will allow information ranging from personnel files to intelligence to be shared across DoD.

Microsoft commended the report for making clear that the Pentagon “established a proper procurement process” in awarding the contract to Microsoft.

“It’s now apparent that Amazon bid too high a price and is seeking a do-over so it can bid again,” Microsoft said in a statement. “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.”

Amazon did not return a request for comment on its reaction to the report’s findings.

Amazon sued DoD last year, alleging that the Pentagon made several mistakes in its evaluation of bids and that President Donald Trump’s public remarks disparaging Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos, improperly influenced the outcome.

Trump repeatedly inserted himself into the JEDI review process in ways that presidents traditionally don’t. In July, Trump said he would be asking the Pentagon “to look at it very closely to see what’s going on” because he heard complaints about the review process from companies and lawmakers. Shortly after, the Pentagon put a contract award on hold so Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who had recently taken the job, could review allegations that Amazon had been unfairly given an advantage for the contract.

The president publicly criticized Amazon and Bezos multiple times. Videos of some of his remarks are key pieces of evidence in Amazon’s suit. In one video of a February 2016 campaign rally, Trump says Amazon is “going to have such problems” if he becomes president.

Trump also repeatedly attacks Bezos, and the Washington Post which Bezos owns, on Twitter. In October, an aide to former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis published a book that said Trump called his defense chief in 2018 and told him to “screw Amazon” out of the JEDI contract.

The report says that after DoD witnesses were told not to answer questions regarding communications with the White House, the White House said witnesses could provide written answers to questions, subject to review by the administration.

“We carefully considered this response and concluded it would not be an appropriate and practical way to conduct our review, because there was no assurance as to which questions would be answered, it would unduly delay the report, it would not allow for an interview and inevitable follow up questions, and it would not assure that we would be receiving full information from the witnesses,” the IG report said. “We therefore declined to proceed in this manner.”

Despite the block, the IG said “we believe the evidence we received showed that the DoD personnel who evaluated proposals and made the source-selection awarding Microsoft the JEDI Cloud contract were not pressured about their decision on the award of the contract by any DoD leaders more senior to them, who may have communicated with the White House.”

Prior to the contract award, Oracle, another competitor for the contract that was cut in a previous round, raised concerns about some Pentagon employees favoring Amazon with unethical behavior. The inspector general substantiated allegations of ethical misconduct against Deap Ubhi, a Pentagon employee who worked on the early stages of crafting the JEDI program before leaving the department to work for Amazon.

Investigators did not, however, find evidence of ethical misconduct by other senior defense officials, including former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who attended a dinner with Amazon officials organized by his former aide Sally Donnelly.

Oracle did not immediately return a request for comment.

When the award was still being considered, some officials raised questions about the contract being awarded to just one company rather than splitting the award among multiple providers. The inspector general said picking a single contractor “was consistent with applicable law and acquisition standards.”

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