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Pentagon May Drop Microsoft JEDI Cloud Data Contract Over Amazon Charge of Trump Influence

CC0 / / The Pentagon, headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense
The Pentagon, headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense - Sputnik International, 1920, 10.05.2021
Amazon launched a lawsuit against the US Department of Defence in 2019 after it awarded a major contract to software giant Microsoft for a new common cloud data system for all service arms. Last month, the Pentagon acknowledged that the legal battle might be too costly.

The Pentagon may cancel a $10 billion contract with Microsoft after rival Amazon claimed former US President Donald Trump influenced the tender process.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Department of Defence (DoD) was ready to drop the project after a judge rejected its legal motion to dismiss Amazon's lawsuit late last month.

The Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud data project tender was awarded to the software giant in 2019, but Jeff Bezos' online retail empire immediately sued the DoD — claiming the process was unfair.

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks indicated late last month that the contract was on hold.

“We’re going to have to assess where we are with regard to the ongoing litigation around JEDI and determine what the best path forward is for the department,” Hicks told a security conference on April 30.

A DoD report published two days earlier said: “The prospect of such a lengthy litigation process might bring the future of the JEDI Cloud procurement into question.”

The WSJ quoted unnamed legislators and government contract specialists who said the tender should have been shared between competitors — just as production of the F-35 stealth attack aircraft was shared between designer Lockheed Martin and runner-up Boeing.

Republican Arkansas Congressman Steve Womack last week urged the Pentagon to start from scratch with a new tender to “enable best-in-class capability by prioritizing the ongoing competition that a cloud environment can promote.”

Microsoft said in a statement on Monday it was ready to go ahead with the project to unify the various service arms' data sharing systems, but that the legal battle would be damaging.

"We agree with the US Departments of Defense and Justice that prolonged litigation is harmful and has delayed getting this technology to our military service members who need it," the corporation said. “We stand ready to support the Defense Department to deliver on JEDI and other mission critical DoD projects.”

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Amazon's cloud unit repeated its allegation that the contract was awarded thanks to "improper influence" by Trump.

The JEDI project is meant to join up data sharing — increasingly used in real-time on the modern battlefield — between the diverse wings of the US armed forces and help the Pentagon develop artificial intelligence systems.

Trump has blamed Amazon boss Jeff Bezos for hostile coverage by the Washington Post, which Bezos bought in 2013 for $250 million. Amazon later shut down conservative-friendly social media site Parler — which rented its server space from the company — earlier this year after Trump was banned from Twitter and Facebook.

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