Lawmakers look to revive collusion case against Amazon in JEDI

DOD cloud 

Two Republican lawmakers are pressing the Justice Department and the Pentagon to reopen a probe into conflicts of interest between Amazon ex-employees and consultants and the government architects of a Department of Defense’s $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud computing program.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), leaders on antitrust subcommittees in their respective chambers, sent letters on May 4 to Attorney General Merrick Garland and acting Defense Department Inspector General Sean O’Donnell as well as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos asking for information, documents and, in the case of the Justice Department, a probe into possible anticompetitive behavior on the part of Amazon Web Services.

"We are concerned that Amazon may have attempted to monopolize one or more markets relating to government and/or commercial cloud computing services by improperly influencing the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure procurement process," Lee and Buck wrote to Garland.

The letters were released on May the Fourth because of the date's memetic association with the Star Wars saga, Lee indicated in a hashtag of a tweet promoting a Wall Street Journal article on the allegations.

The letter to Garland and the letters to Bezos and O'Connell detail allegations of interference by former defense officials with ties to Amazon that were the subject of a DOD OIG investigation and circulated in press reports after the JEDI request for proposals was released and before the eventual award to Microsoft in Oct. 2019.

The JEDI contract remains the subject of litigation. AWS is pursuing a lawsuit in the Court of Federal Claims seeking to overturn the award to Microsoft. AWS alleges that political and personal animus on the part of former President Donald Trump toward Bezos led procurement officials to award the contract to Microsoft. Just last week, the judge in the case ruled against the U.S. and Microsoft in their bid to dismiss the charges of interference and uphold the award. DOD officials have signaled that a lengthy litigation process could lead them to rethink their enterprise cloud strategy.

The letter to Bezos seeks information about AWS's total stake in the federal cloud computing market and information on a web of personal and business connections between Bezos and other Amazon officials and former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and senior staffers. The lawmakers also want O'Connell to turn over the entire investigative file on the matter of JEDI conflict of interest to Congress.

"These are the same false, tired, and meritless allegations that have been repeatedly rejected by every independent review -- from federal courts, to the [Government Accountability Office], to the DOD IG," an AWS spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "This is nothing more than an attempt by certain less capable AWS competitors to distract from the fact that by every objective measure AWS provides its customers with superior technology, more secure and reliable services, and deeper experience supporting classified government workloads."

This story was updated on May 5 to include comment from AWS.

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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