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Pentagon hits reset on Trump's $10 billion cloud deal, welcoming new players

WorldJul 07, 2021 06:46AM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Microsoft logo is seen in Los Angeles, California, U.S. June 14, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson 2/2

By Diane Bartz and David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Defense Department canceled its $10 billion JEDI cloud-computing project on Tuesday, reversing the Trump-era award to Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ:MSFT) and announcing a new contract expected to include its rival Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) and possibly other cloud players.

The contract was coveted not for its dollar value as much as its prestige: Both companies for years have sought to persuade businesses and governments that it was safe to shift computing work into their data centers. Meeting all the security requirements of the U.S. military would have been a visible stamp of approval likely to sway other corporate and government clients, analysts said.

Seattle-based Amazon, the biggest cloud computing provider, was widely expected to win the contract. But when the Pentagon awarded the sole-source deal to Microsoft in 2019, the announcement gave "huge credibility" to Microsoft, which had been working hard to catch Amazon after a late start with cloud technology, said Mark Moerdler, a senior research analyst at Bernstein.

But the contract has been on hold after Amazon filed a lawsuit challenging the decision under then-President Donald Trump, alleging that the former president exerted improper pressure on military officials to steer the contract away from Amazon.

Trump publicly derided then-Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and repeatedly criticized the company. Amazon said in 2019 the Pentagon decision was full of "egregious errors," which it suggested were a result of "improper pressure from Trump." The company cited a 2019 book that reported Trump had directed the Defense Department to "screw Amazon" https://reut.rs/2V4LqgQ out of the JEDI contract.

Shares of Microsoft and Amazon both closed at a record high with the online retailer up 4.7% and shares of the software firm a penny higher.

Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities, said the absolute dollars involved - $10 billion over a decade - are at most a nice-to-have for the cloud companies, with AWS alone generating $45.3 billion in sales and $13.5 billion in operating profits for 2020. The value, he said, was in showcasing the security of the clouds, "but it's not going to move the needle" for either company.

But the cancellation and new contract could benefit Microsoft, Moerdler said, because the Redmond, Washington-based company has had nearly two years during the legal wrangling to invest in its technology.

"If there is now another competition, Microsoft is going in from a better position," Moerdler said. As recently as September the Defense Department re-evaluated the contract proposals and said Microsoft's submission was the best.

While the Trump administration wanted a single provider, the Biden administration has said it would likely parcel out the project to multiple companies. Such a move would put the military more in line with private-sector companies, many of whom split up their cloud computing work among multiple vendors to avoid being locked in to any specific one.

Other top cloud companies include Oracle Corp (NYSE:ORCL), Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Inc's Google and IBM (NYSE:IBM) Corp. Google and IBM on Tuesday said they were both interested in working with the federal government but stopped on short of saying whether they would enter the bidding process.

The Pentagon hopes to have the first awards by April 2022 for its new Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability (JWCC).

John Sherman, acting chief information officer for the Defense Department, said he expects both Microsoft and Amazon will get cloud contracts. He said the need was urgent.

"I've got to get this now -- as soon as possible -- starting hopefully as soon as April," Sherman said.

Microsoft said in a statement the company was confident it will "continue to be successful as the DoD selects partners for new work". Microsoft could submit a termination bid to recover costs of the scrapped project, Sherman said.

Amazon's cloud unit Amazon Web Services (AWS) said it agreed with the Pentagon's decision to cancel the contract. Amazon said the initial award was "not based on the merits of the proposals and instead was the result of outside influence that has no place in government procurement." AWS added it looks "forward to continuing to support the DoD’s modernization efforts and building solutions that help accomplish their critical missions."

In April a judge refused to dismiss Amazon's claims alleging the Trump administration interfered in the Pentagon's award to Microsoft after putting it on hold indefinitely in February 2020.

The now-cancelled Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure Cloud (JEDI) contract was budgeted for as much as $10 billion and was part of a broader digital modernization of the Pentagon aimed at making it more technologically agile.

"We don't have an estimate yet, but I wouldn't latch onto the $10 billion figure," Sherman said, but added that the plan would likely involve a direct award for "urgently needed" capabilities and then a "full and open" competition for multiple suppliers by early 2025.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley praised the Pentagon's decision.

"The JEDI contract has been burdened by potential conflicts of interest, size, needless delays and its single awardee structure," Grassley said, saying a fresh review process "will afford the program an opportunity for greater public trust and confidence."

Pentagon hits reset on Trump's $10 billion cloud deal, welcoming new players
 

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Comments (13)
Ethan Strong
Ethan Strong Aug 12, 2021 7:31PM ET
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A multi cloud source is far better for security in the long run.
Lukas Nowak
Lukas Nowak Aug 08, 2021 3:25AM ET
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Biden had to pay back to the big giants that did everything to make him win
Jim Connor
Jim Connor Aug 08, 2021 3:25AM ET
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Real Americans helped Biden win … No magic .. just Americans seeing Trump for what he was .. i love less taxes and no one is taking my guns away … until the repuplicans settle down and find the right candidate ill pay higher taxes its worth it to never have another Trump set foot in our White House … let him stay at Largo the only piece of property hes allowed to stay now 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸
Special Forces
Special Forces Aug 08, 2021 3:25AM ET
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...Bravo!
Rick Baier
Rick Baier Aug 08, 2021 3:25AM ET
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Correct Biden is owned. He was told to run the dirt they have on his family is immense
jideofor robinson
jideofor robinson Aug 03, 2021 1:35PM ET
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wow
Catholic Man
CatholicMan Jul 19, 2021 2:39PM ET
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bitter democrats wasting more money
Adrian White
Adrian White Jul 19, 2021 2:39PM ET
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Since when did the Pentagon = "bitter Democrats"?
Kate Davis
Kate Davis Jul 07, 2021 1:35PM ET
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Jeff Bezos wants to dictate the world. Amazon is full of made in CCP trash! boycott Amazon.
Stephen Smith
Stephen Smith Jul 07, 2021 8:01AM ET
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The statement did not directly mention that the Pentagon faced extended legal challenges by Amazon to the original $1-million US contract awarded to Microsoft. Amazon argued that the Microsoft award was tainted by politics, particularly then-president Donald Trump’s antagonism toward Amazon’s chief executive officer, Jeff Bezos. Bezos owns The Washington Post, a news outlet often criticized by Trump. https://worldabcnews.com/pentagon-cancels-disputed-jedi-cloud-contract-with-microsoft-in-win-for-amazon/
Truth Trader
Truth Trader Jul 07, 2021 12:37AM ET
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About time! AWS is a far superior platform.
Notvery Goodathis
Peteymcletey Jul 07, 2021 12:37AM ET
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Trump did it, so undo it. wahhh
Andy Temp
Andy Temp Jul 07, 2021 12:37AM ET
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Not undo it, but correct it.
Notvery Goodathis
Peteymcletey Jul 07, 2021 12:37AM ET
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James Pattison
James Pattison Jul 06, 2021 8:11PM ET
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I trust the wuhan virology lab about as much as i trust amazon
Andy Temp
Andy Temp Jul 06, 2021 8:11PM ET
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Insubstantial comment. Just China bashing. As usual, from the right wing.
Catholic Man
CatholicMan Jul 06, 2021 8:11PM ET
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Jeff Gordon
Jeff Gordon Jul 06, 2021 7:18PM ET
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No way would I ever trust Amazon over Microsoft for security and enterprise. These lawmakers are just set on doing the opposite of anything done during the Trump years.
Todd Gray
Todd Gray Jul 06, 2021 7:11PM ET
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the gov should keep their business separated from private business.
Bob Collins
Bob Collins Jul 06, 2021 6:45PM ET
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Unbelievable. I wouldn’t trust AWS. Ever.
Rick Baier
Rick Baier Jul 06, 2021 6:11PM ET
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I don't blame Trump for criticizing Jeff Bezos. A trillion dollar plus company that refuses to pay their wharehouse shift workers night differential and holiday overtime pay. I've run businesses and been an employee. You don't treat people who work for you that way. Especially when your making the kind of bank your making. I'm not a pro union guy if there ever was a reason to unionize the warehouse workers the time is now
James Pattison
James Pattison Jul 06, 2021 6:11PM ET
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Unions are just another burscrscy democrats will basterdize and corrupt for personal and families gains
 
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