‘No evidence’ of White House pressure in JEDI contract

The US Department of Defence’s (DoD) procurement process that resulted in the decision to award the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract to Microsoft was in line with the law, according to a report by the Pentagon’s inspector general.

In a paper, the inspector general said media reports of US president Donald Trumps’ statements about Amazon “may have created the appearance or perception that the contract award process was not fair or unbiased”.

But it said: “We believe the evidence we received showed that the DoD personnel who evaluated the contract proposals and awarded Microsoft the JEDI Cloud contract were not pressured regarding their decision on the award of the contract by any DoD leaders more senior to them, who may have communicated with the White House.”

It continued that the award of the contract had followed regulations. It said: “We did not assess the merits of the contractors’ proposals or DoD’s technical or price evaluations; rather we reviewed the source selection process and determined that it was in compliance with applicable statutes, policies, and the evaluation process described in the Request for Proposals.”

However, the report added it was not possible to review the matter of White House influence fully because of the assertion of a “presidential communications privilege”.

“Therefore, we could not definitively determine the full extent or nature of interactions that administration officials had, or may have had, with senior DoD officials regarding the JEDI Cloud procurement,” the report said.

The report followed the dispute over the DoD’s decision to award the $10bn contract to Microsoft, after a legal challenge was launched by Amazon Web Services (AWS) at the end of 2019.

AWS, which had also bid for the contract, claimed the decision was influenced by pressure from Trump, who had frequently criticised Amazon and its boss, Jeff Bezos. 

In February 2020, the JEDI project was subsequently halted after AWS won a preliminary injunction to stop Microsoft starting work on the contract citing “evaluation errors” and “blatant political interference”.

The JEDI contract is one of largest defence contracts in the US and aims to improve the military’s storage of data as well as helping it access information remotely. 

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