Amazon, Microsoft 'war cloud' race could waste taxpayer dollars, Rubio warns

Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is the latest lawmaker expressing concern about the procurement race for the Pentagon’s lucrative cloud contract.

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Rubio sent a letter to National Security Advisor John Bolton this week, asking him to delay the Department of Defense decision regarding the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract – citing concerns that the procurement race has been uncompetitive.

“I fully understand and support the significant need for DoD to modernize its technology systems, and believe moving to the cloud is critical to that effort,” Rubio’s letter read. “This type of fiscal and time commitment should demand a procurement steeped in competition and conducted without bias toward any one vendor.”

Rubio alleged that the Defense Department used “arbitrary criteria and standards for bidders,” which led to only four companies – Amazon, Microsoft, Intel and Oracle – ultimately bidding for the multibillion-dollar job.

As a result, he raised concerns it would waste taxpayer dollars and fail to provide warfighters with the best and most innovative technology solutions.

The contract in question is the $10 billion JEDI cloud storage contract – a single-source job that could span as many as 10 years. Currently, Amazon and Microsoft are the remaining two companies in the running after Intel and Oracle failed to meet stated minimum requirements.

The Defense Department intended to announce a winner next month – and has already begun identifying programs that could be transitioned to the JEDI infrastructure.

Earlier this week, Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley made a similar request, citing potential conflicts of interest. There have been concerns raised about alleged connections between Amazon employees and Defense Department officials – and a purported unfair bias toward the e-commerce giant. Oracle has filed complaints citing these claims.

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Amazon was viewed as an early frontrunner due to its other standing cloud deals, including a $600 million cloud contract with the CIA. That indicates the company already has the approval to handle sensitive government data.

Last year, search giant Google pulled its bid for the JEDI contract, amid concerns the job does not align with the company’s artificial intelligence principles. Google has dealt with employee protests and concerns over producing technology for the U.S. military.