Monday, 08 July 2019 08:36

Questions over JEDI contract after Bezos' meeting with Mattis revealed Featured

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Questions over JEDI contract after Bezos' meeting with Mattis revealed Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Former US defence secretary Jim Mattis met Amazon chief Jeff Bezos in August 2017 emails obtained by The Wall Street Journal show, raising questions over the company's bid for a massive Defence contract worth US$10 billion.

Prior to that, Mattis met AWS vice-president Teresa Carlson in March 2017, and Pentagon officials who had connections to Amazon helped arrange for Carlson to meet Mattis' chief of staff and other DoD officials, the WSJ reported.

No mention was made about what was discussed at any of these meetings. The first draft calling for requests for proposals for the JEDI contract were put out in March 2018, with a formal proposal following after four months.

The DoD Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure contract, known by its acronym JEDI, is meant to unite all Defence services under one cloud vendor, as the CIA did in 2013 with Amazon at a cost of US$600 million.

Amazon is favoured to win the contract and is one of the two companies left in the race, the other being Microsoft.

Oracle, one of the other companies which had bid for the contract, has launched a challenge in the US Court of Federal Claims to the way the process has been conducted. Its complaint is set to be heard this week.

The database giant claims that a former Amazon employee who now works for the DoD was instrumental in crafting the terms and conditions of the deal so that it favoured Amazon. That employee is now working with Amazon again.

Google, which was also a bidder, withdrew from the contest after many of its employees protested about its involvement. The search giant said it was pulling out because the JEDI deal was not one which would sit well with the company.

IBM, the fifth company in the race, has raised no objection after it was excluded.

A spokesman for Amazon told the WSJ that AWS had "received no preferential treatment in any procurement as a result of any meetings, one-on-one or otherwise, with DoD officials".

The WSJ quoted Republican Senator Chuck Grassley as saying the material in the emails convinced him that the bidding process should be restarted. "We shouldn’t have to tolerate conflicts or appearances of conflicts of interest in any government contracting process,” he said.

While the awarding of the JEDI contract is expected by the end of August, the DoD will first have to explain how it plans to move later to a multi-cloud setup — which the government prefers — before the selected bidder starts work on migrating data.

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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