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April 15, 2020updated 16 Apr 2020 6:21pm

New Pentagon JEDI Award Report Triggers Firestorm

But Inspector General says he was blocked from assessing Trump's influence

By CBR Staff Writer

The Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General has found that the department’s controversial decision to award the mega-JEDI cloud contract to Microsoft rather than Amazon was “was consistent with applicable law and acquisition standards.”

Moreover, the Inspector General lashed out at DoD procurement officials, saying they “improperly disclosed source selection and proprietary Microsoft information to Amazon” and “failed to properly redact names of DoD source selection team members in the source selection reports that were disclosed to Amazon and Microsoft.”

Did Trump Influence the Contract? “Couldn’t Say”

The Inspector General admitted, however, that his team was unable to assess any White House influence on the JEDI cloud procurement after Trump’s team declined to answer questions about any communications it may have had on the contract.

The report notes: “We could not review this matter fully because of the assertion of a ‘presidential communications privilege,’ which resulted in several DoD witnesses being instructed by the DoD Office of General Counsel not to answer our questions about potential communications between White House and DoD officials about JEDI.”

That admission has triggered a political firestorm in Washington DC, with the Democrats’ Adam Schiff describing it as “corruption in plain sight”.

Microsoft, as contract winner, will provide department-wide cloud services that will underpin new AI-powered war-fighting capabilities, via a common cloud environment. (The task ahead is huge: The Pentagon says it currently uses over 3.4 million end users, four million endpoint devices, 1,700 different data centres and 500 cloud initiatives.)

“Administrative Action” Needed Over Leaks

In a 317-page report [pdf] the Inspector General (whose team reviewed 31.2 GB of e-mails to reach the decision) recommended “administrative action against appropriate individuals for failing to review the redacted reports and attachments to the debriefing e-mails, and disclosing proprietary, proposal, and source selection information.

The Inspector General failed to gain access to White House communications, “despite our investigative authorities”. Screen grab of report.

Amazon is arguing in court that the decision on the $10 billion contract was improperly influenced by President Trump’s “disdain” for Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos.

AWS sources say the company remains committed to receiving a full and objective review that examines the “many errors, flaws, and biases” that impacted the award decision.

The Inspector General notes: “Our review did not assess the appropriateness of the DoD’s award of the JEDI Cloud contract to Microsoft rather than AWS.

“We did not review the merits of the contractors’ proposals or DoD’s technical or price evaluations; rather, we reviewed the source selection process and whether it was in compliance with applicable statutes, policies, and the evaluation process described in the Request for Proposals, and also whether it was influenced by outside pressure.”

AWS’s $600 million cloud contract with the CIA and significantly greater market heft had left it firm favourite to win the contract.

A company spokesperson told Computer Business Review: “This report doesn’t tell us much. It says nothing about the merits of the award, which we know are highly questionable based on the Judge’s recent statements and the government’s request to go back and take corrective action.

“And, it’s clear that this report couldn’t assess political interference because several DoD witnesses were instructed by the White House not to answer the IG’s questions about communications between the White House and DoD officials. The White House’s refusal to cooperate with the IG’s investigation is yet another blatant attempt to avoid a meaningful and transparent review of the JEDI contract award.”

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