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The Pentagon awarded a $ 10 billion 10-year contract to Microsoft over Amazon on Friday, ending a fiercely scrutinized battle in which the technology giant would largely control the military's cloud services.
The massive contract – known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, cloud contract – was largely expected to be awarded to Amazon Web Services, or AWS, which also manages cloud computing services for the Central Intelligence Agency.
"We are surprised by this conclusion. AWS is the clear leader in cloud computing, and a detailed assessment of its comparative offerings clearly leads to another conclusion," an AWS spokesman told NPR in a statement.
Amazon's potential acquisition of the contract was met with heavy criticism by other competitors, Republicans in Congress and eventually by President Trump, who has long been engaged in a largely unilateral feud with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
The contract's all-winning bid began in early 2018, and critics – including another competitor for the contract, Oracle – has claimed that the Department of Defense has unfairly preferred Amazon over other potential suppliers. Oracle and IBM successfully sued to block the price. The Government Accountability Office determined the bidding process to be fair.
These concerns eventually made their way to Capitol Hill. In June, senior Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Asked that the Department of Defense postpone the award of the contract pending a conflict of interest investigation. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Urged the Pentagon in July to consider more vendors for their cloud computing services.
Also in July, Trump addressed the matter directly.
"I get huge complaints on contract with the Pentagon and with Amazon," Trump told reporters. "We get huge complaints from other companies and from good companies."
"I would ask them to look into it to see what is happening, because I have had very few things where there have been such complaints," he said. "We want to look at it very strongly."
In early August, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper Pentagon announced he would re-examine the project before announcing a winner. Esper withdrew this week for all decisions involving the cloud contract.
Pentagon's break from the contract process raised concern that the president interfered with the award of the defense contract, which would be a violation of federal procurement laws, according to The Washington Post .
It is important that we maintain a fair and competitive process for DoD contracts, but that the president using force from his office to punish critics in the media would be a complete abuse of power. This does not pass the smell test and we need some answerhttps: //t.co/3CqbwEXuX1
– Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) August 2, 2019
Trump has an openly disputed relationship with Amazon and in particular with The Washington Post, owned by Bezos and is a frequent target of the president's honor.
So sorry to hear the news about Jeff Bozo being taken off by a competitor whose reporting, I understand, is far more accurate than the reporting in his lobbying newspaper, the Amazon Washington Post. Hopefully the paper will soon be placed in better and more responsible hands!
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2019
In a new book, Holding the Line: Inside Trump & # 39; s Pentagon with Secretary Mattis, Guy Snodgrass , a retired Navy commander who worked closely with then-Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, writes that Trump called and instructed Mattis to "turn Amazon off" by locking it out of a chance to bid on the JEDI contract. According to Snodgrass, Mattis told him and others: "We will not do that. This will be done by the book, both legally and ethically."
In a statement on the award, the Department of Defense stated:  "The procurement process was conducted in accordance with current laws and regulations. The process cleared the review of GAO and the Court of Federal Claims. Initially, the competition included four different providers. All providers were treated fairly and evaluated consistently with the request's stated evaluation criteria. Prior to the award, the department conferred with the DOD Inspector General, who informed the decision to proceed. "
NPR reached Microsoft, but a spokesperson has not yet commented on the award.
administer the JEDI contract, Microsoft will be responsible for storing vast amounts of sensitive military data and giving the US military access to technologies such as artificial intelligence.
"We need to improve the speed and efficiency we develop and distribute modernized technical capabilities to our women and men in uniform," said Dana Deasy, the Department of Defense's communications chief, in a statement. "This award is an important step in the execution of the digital modernization strategy."