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Trump’s Acting DOD Secretary Weighs In On A Cloud Contract Conservatives Loathe

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Acting Department of Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan supports a $10 billion winner-take-all cloud computing contract that conservatives oppose, a DOD spokesman told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Amazon Web Services and Microsoft are jockeying for position to land the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract, a program which may be the largest stand-alone technology contract the federal government has ever awarded. The DOD is expected to select a winner for the contract in mid-July, media reports show.

“His position is the same as the DoD position,” said Lt. Colonel Joe Buccino, a Public Affairs Officer who speaks on behalf of DOD Acting Secretary Patrick Shanahan. Shanahan is expected to face a tough confirmation hearing next week, and his position on JEDI could roil conservatives who believe it’s a bad idea to unify cloud services into one platform.

It’s become a controversial issue among some Republicans. Reps. Steve Womack of Arkansas and Tom Cole of Oklahoma, for instance, requested a probe in October 2018 into the Pentagon’s handling of the deal. This came after TheDCNF reported that an adviser to former Secretary of Defense James Mattis once consulted for Amazon Web Services through her firm.

IBM and Oracle, two of Amazon’s competitors in the cloud industry, filed protests in 2018 of the JEDI contract with the Government Accountability Office. (RELATED: Reps Call For Investigation Into Pentagon’s Handling Of Controversial $10 Billion Cloud Contract)

Defense Secretary James Mattis attends a meeting with President Donald Trump and congressional leadership in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on Nov. 28, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)

Defense Secretary James Mattis attends a meeting with President Donald Trump and congressional leadership in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on Nov. 28, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)

“It has come to our attention through media reports that individuals who held, or hold, high-ranking positions in the Department have access to the specific contractor,” Womack and Cole wrote in a letter at the time to Department of Defense acting Inspector General Glenn Fine.

Experts in the tech industry questioned why the Pentagon chose to take the winner-take-all route for JEDI rather than following the standard of leveraging multiple cloud providers. Only Amazon and Microsoft hold the necessary certifications for the contract.

Conservative groups are skeptical as well.

“A contract of this magnitude should not be awarded as a sole source contract,” conservative groups wrote in a May 16 letter to Russel Vought, the acting director for the Office of Management and Budget. Citizens Against Government Waste, The American Conservative Union and The Taxpayers Protection Alliance were among the groups that signed the letter.

They added: “The use of multiple cloud solutions follows industry-wide best practices utilized by most Fortune 500 companies. Mr. Hodgkins (Trey Hodgkins of IT Alliance for Public Sector) noted that by using multiple providers, the cybersecurity and functionality of the JEDI system would be improved, costs would decrease through increased competition.”

Shanahan is likely to face push back during his confirmation to be DOD secretary. Two of the Democrats on the panel interviewing him – Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York – are running against Trump in 2020, meaning they will be looking for viral moments to exploit during the confirmation hearing.

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