Esper: No White House pressure on JEDI

Mark T. Esper at the 2018 HQDA Attache Reception March 15, 2018. Photo by Staff Sgt. Brandy N. Mejia. 

Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters on Saturday that he "never felt pressure from the White House" with regard to the award to Microsoft of the $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract.

"The decision to conduct a review early on was a decision I made," Esper told reporters at a security conference in Germany on Feb. 16, according to a transcript released by the Pentagon. "[A]s I conducted my rounds on the Hill prior to my nomination process, I heard a lot from members on both sides of the aisle."

Esper alluded to heavy media coverage of the JEDI procurement and said, "this was an issue, the contract, that I had not been involved in as Army secretary. So I knew that it was something I needed to learn a good deal about. And I took the time educate myself."

Last week a federal judge granted a temporary injunction to Amazon Web Services to stop work on the contract. AWS is protesting the award in a lawsuit that alleges that President Donald Trump took a hand in steering the contract away from AWS with his public utterances and because of a well-documented animus toward Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of AWS parent company Amazon.

Esper didn't wade into the issues in the lawsuit, but did say he wanted to get moving on JEDI, a plan for a DOD-wide cloud infrastructure focused on delivering data, bandwidth, applications, analytics and computing power to soldiers in the field that was first publicly floated in December 2017.

"This is affecting the war-fighter," Esper said. "We have to move forward. It has gone on too long. And I hope we can get over this -- this latest issue and keep moving forward to deliver to our war-fighter the capabilities they need to fight and win on the battlefield."

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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