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2 Aug, 2019 10:10

Pentagon puts $10bn ‘war cloud’ contract on hold after Trump cites Amazon concerns

Pentagon puts $10bn ‘war cloud’ contract on hold after Trump cites Amazon concerns

The Pentagon has announced it will review the bidding process for the massive cloud computing contract for the US military over concerns the deal could be “unfairly” granted to Amazon.

The White House has instructed newly installed Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper to probe the process for awarding the multi-year contract, dubbed Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, aimed at revamping the US military’s data storage system.

“Keeping his promise to Members of Congress and the American public, Secretary Esper is looking at the [JEDI] program. No decision will be made on the program until he has completed his examination,” Elissa Smith, a Pentagon spokesperson, said in a statement Thursday.

She added that the reexamination was needed to “[ensure] our warfighters have the best capabilities, including Artificial Intelligence, to remain the most lethal force in the world, while safeguarding taxpayer dollars.”

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The announcement came after US President Donald Trump raised concerns last month over whether the Department of Defense interfered in the process to favor Amazon after other runners-up expressed “tremendous complaints.”

Some of the greatest companies in the world are complaining about it […] I will be asking [the Pentagon] to look at it very closely to see what’s going on because I have had very few things where there has been such tremendous complaining. They are saying it wasn’t competitively bid,” Trump said at the White House on July 18, even after the court ruled that the competition was fair, earlier the same month.

The deal, which could be worth up to $10 billion and secure the winner’s singular cooperation with the US government for up to 10 years, could go to either Amazon or Microsoft, after two other competitors, Oracle and IBM, were kicked out of the race in April.

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The two remaining firms are both top providers of cloud infrastructure that can be used to host applications and store data. Apart from accusations of favoritism toward Amazon, the contract competitors also raised concerns over the Pentagon’s decision to choose just one company for the job, claiming it could cause security breaches.

The current reevaluation will most probably postpone the outcome of the competition, which was initially scheduled to confirm the winner in August.

Experts say that Trump’s call for a review could be linked with his long-running rift with Amazon’s founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post newspaper. Bezos has been Trump’s outspoken critic ever since he became president. Bezos has repeatedly been a target of Trump’s angry tweets.

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