The Pentagon is placing a contract award for its Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud competition on hold while newly appointed Defense Secretary Mark Esper reviews the controversial program.

“Secretary Esper is committed to ensuring our warfighters have the best capabilities, including Artificial Intelligence, to remain the most lethal force in the world, while safeguarding taxpayer dollars,” Elissa Smith, a DoD spokeswoman, said in a statement. “Keeping his promise to members of Congress and the American public, Secretary Esper is looking at the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure program. No decision will be made on the program until he has completed his examination.”

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper (DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

DoD CIO Dana Deasy had previously said a contract award to either Amazon [AMZN] Web Services or Microsoft [MSFT], the program’s finalists, was slated for late August. 

The potentially $10 billion JEDI program has faced allegations of conflict of interest with AWS, pre-award protests and congressional and industry pushback over the Pentagon’s decision to go with a single-award approach.

Esper told reporters last week he planned to take a “hard look” at JEDI, which followed recent remarks from the president that he has received complaints from several companies regarding the program.

The Pentagon recently won a legal challenge against technology firm Oracle [ORCL] after the company sued the department over the program’s gate criteria which eliminated it from contention.

The court sided with the Pentagon over the program’s requirements, but in a full opinion released earlier this week the judge noted JEDI’s “flawed” contract structure and detailed instances of potential conflicts of interest between officials who worked on the program and AWS (Defense Daily, July 29).