The Pentagon’s chief information officer told a Senate defense panel Tuesday there was no outside political pressure, including from the White House, on the decision to award the potential $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract to Microsoft [MSFT] over Amazon [AMZN].
Dana Deasy, the DoD CIO, said the Pentagon ensured the JEDI source selection team remained anonymous and insulated from external influence, as he faced questions from lawmakers on the president’s previous disparaging comments on Amazon potentially affecting the company’s chance to win the work.
“I can tell you that the way we organized the team, kept the anonymity of the team, the compartmentalization of the team, that I feel very confident that at no time were team members, that actually took the source selection, influenced with any external [pressure], including the White House,” Deasy said.
Deasy was on the Hill for his Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing to serve as the DoD CIO, a position he has held since May 2018 but which is now required to be Senate confirmed under new law.
Tuesday’s hearing followed a contract award for JEDI cloud last Friday to Microsoft, beating out Amazon, which had been viewed as the heavy favorite. Amazon is evaluating its options moving forward, a source familiar with the situation told Defense Daily, with analysts predicting the company is likely to file a protest (Defense Daily, Oct. 28).
“[JEDI] has not been done without some controversy,” Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the SASC ranking member, said during his opening remarks. “The importance of this contract, as you specifically and very eloquently stated, is so critical to our national security that it has to be beyond any type of political engagement. It has to be done right down the middle.”
Reed and Angus King (I-Maine) questioned Deasy about reports that the president asked the Pentagon to review the JEDI competition and that he had received complaints from companies on the procurement process.
“President Trump’s antipathy to Amazon is well-known. It’s been reported that, even in the summer of 2018, he instructed [then Defense Secretary] Gen. [Jim] Mattis to ‘screw Amazon’ out of the opportunity to bid on this contract,” King said.
Deasy reiterated that the JEDI procurement process was run through the source selection team, adding that no one on that committee was subject to outside influence and vendors’ proposals were not shared with senior leadership.
“In my discussions that I have had with the deputy secretary of defense and the secretary of defense, at no time throughout this process have I ever shared any proprietary source information with them nor have I ever divulged, when we got to the conclusion, who the awardee was,” Deasy said. “To the best of my knowledge, nobody has contacted, from the White House, any members of the source selection team.”
SASC lawmakers also pressed Deasy on potential vulnerabilities associated with JEDI’s goal to have an enterprise cloud computing system that hosts unclassified and classified data.
Deasy noted that currently implemented cloud solutions are disparate and designed in a siloed manner, which he said provides greater risk than a single solution designed to consolidate network infrastructure.
“We are doing absolutely the right thing by putting in a single cloud that integrates our unclassified data, our secret data and our top-secret data. Most importantly, it’s getting that data from that cloud out to the tactical edge,” Deasy said. “If we don’t get the right enterprise cloud in place our ability to do advanced machine learning, artificial intelligence, next-generation command and control communications and securing the department in a different way will be very challenging.”