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Oracle revives charges that Pentagon bid was tainted by Amazon conflicts

Naomi Nix, Bloomberg News on

Published in Science & Technology News

WASHINGTON -- Oracle Corp. opened its appeal in a legal challenge of a Pentagon cloud-computing contract valued at as much as $10 billion with a familiar argument: the procurement was unfairly tailored for Amazon.com Inc.

In in its opening brief, which was filed on Friday, Oracle said the cloud project violated federal procurement law and was tainted by relationships between former Pentagon officials and Amazon.

Oracle is appealing a July ruling from the U.S. Court of Federal Claims that dismissed its legal challenge of the cloud contract based on similar claims. At the same time, Amazon is mulling its own potential legal challenge of the project after losing the deal to Microsoft Corp. late last month, Bloomberg has reported.

The legal challenges could revive fresh criticism from industry, lawmakers and analysts of the Pentagon's handling of the controversial cloud project, known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI. The project is designed to consolidate the Pentagon's cloud computing infrastructure and modernize its technology systems.

The Defense Department is facing accusations that former employees with ties to Amazon may have structured the deal to favor Amazon and that President Donald Trump may have unfairly intervened in the process against Amazon. Trump has long been at odds with Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post.

Trump Surprise

 

"It is difficult to recall any prior procurement of this scale, value and significance in which two of the four leading competitors had compelling conflicts of interest or bias allegations," said Steven Schooner, a professor of government procurement law at George Washington University. "This is extraordinary."

Trump surprised the industry earlier this year when he openly questioned whether the contract was being competitively bid, citing complaints from Microsoft, Oracle and International Business Machines Corp.

A new book by Guy Snodgrass, a speechwriter to former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, alleges that Trump, in the summer of 2018, told Mattis to "screw Amazon" and lock it out of the bid. Mattis didn't do what Trump asked, Snodgrass wrote. Mattis has criticized the book.

Dana Deasy, the Pentagon's chief information officer, said during his confirmation hearing last week that to the best of his knowledge, no one from the White House reached out to any members of the JEDI cloud contract selection team.

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