WASHINGTON Two members of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee have called on the Pentagon’s Inspector General to investigate the massive, winner-take-all $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure — or JEDI — cloud contract.
The lawmakers, Tom Cole and Steve Womack, sent a letter Monday to the DoD outlining their concerns that the government’s requirements for the program “seem to be tailored to one specific contractor.”
While mega e-retailer Amazon wasn’t mentioned in the letter, the company is the obvious contractor the House members reference throughout their missive. Amazon has long been considered the front-runner for the long-term contract after Alphabet’s Google took itself out of the running.
The Pentagon’s controversial decision to offer the contract to one bidder has already caused consternation in the tech and acquisition worlds, and the program has been beset by formal protests from IBM and Oracle over the past two months. Both companies objected to the single award structure of the program. In a statement earlier this month, IBM said “no business in the world would build a cloud the way JEDI would and then lock in to it for a decade. JEDI turns its back on the preferences of Congress and the administration, is a bad use of taxpayer dollars and was written with just one company in mind.”
Alphabet walked away from the competition due to the single award stipulation.
In response to the letter, the Pentagon will likely argue that the single award can be massaged, as “option periods are baked in to the length of the solicitation giving the Pentagon an easier out if unsatisfied with contractor performance,” said Lauren R. Brier, an attorney with The Federal Practice Group who focuses on federal government contracting.
The letter points out that some of the program’s most critical requirements — like the one that calls for the winning bidder to have the ability to host top-secret data — were “unnecessary” and could “only be met by one contractor.” Again without mentioning Amazon, the company’s Web Services segment is the only company in the running that currently meets that requirement.
Cole and Womack also write in their letter that “it has come to our attention through media reports that individuals who held, or hold, high ranking positions in the department have significant connections to the specific contractor.” Former advisor to Defense Secretary James Mattis, Sally Donnelly, had performed consulting work for Amazon Web Services before moving on the the Pentagon, but she has denied having anything to do with the writing of the requirements of the JEDI solicitation.
“If it’s true that these individuals had a hand in developing the JEDI program,” Brier said, “the concerns for an investigation are well-founded and are in addition to already questionable provisions that seem to be tailor-made for one contractor. If pushback on the JEDI contract continues to grow, it’s possible the Pentagon will choose to take corrective action on the solicitation at the pre-award protest level.”
The Pentagon aims to award the contract in early 2019.