House, Senate lawmakers disagree over the need for White House involvement in JEDI

On the heels of President Donald Trump saying he would like the Defense Department to review its cloud computing contract known as JEDI, four Republican House lawmakers are encouraging the White House not to delay the award any further.

Reps. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Michael Turner (R-Ohio) and Rob Wittman (R-Va.) wrote a letter to the President yesterday saying the committee has done enough oversight of JEDI to know it’s important for DoD to move forward.

“We believe that it is essential for our national security to move forward as quickly as possible with the award and implementation of this contract,” the letter states. “It meets only a portion of DoD’s needs for cloud, but it is an important first step. Moving to the cloud will help DoD operate faster, more efficiently and compete with adversaries, like China.”

acquisition reforms
House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Mac Thornberry.

Trump said yesterday that he was “getting tremendous complaints about the contract with the Pentagon and with Amazon.”

Trump said when he was asked about the matter during an Oval Office appearance with the Dutch prime minister, “They’re saying it wasn’t competitively bid. We’re looking at it very seriously. It’s a very big contract, one of the biggest ever given having to do with the cloud and having to do with a lot of other things.”

A judge for the Court of Federal Claims ruled last week that Oracle didn’t have standing in its bid protest, which capped months of accusations over conflicts of interest, secret job offers and sour grapes over the contract that could be worth up to $10 billion over 10 years.

The Pentagon has said it plans to award the contract as soon as Aug. 23.

Along with the letter from Republicans, a Democrat on the committee also weighed in on Trump’s comments.

Rep. James Langevin (D-R.I.), who sits on the Armed Services Committee, said Thursday he has full confidence in the Defense Department’s cloud strategy and that it’s important that the project be allowed to move forward.

Langevin said in an emailed statement to the Associated Press that it would be “wholly inappropriate” for Trump or any member of Congress to interfere in the procurement process, especially since the courts and the Government Accountability Office — the watchdog for Congress — have rejected challenges to the Pentagon’s plans.

Daniel Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute, a defense-oriented think tank based in Virginia, said it’s not unusual for Trump to publicly raise concerns about a defense equipment contract, as Trump did weeks before he took office over the contract with Boeing for an updated version of Air Force One.

But Goure said it’s rare for Trump to actually reverse a Pentagon decision, especially one backed by a legal opinion.

“I would be incredibly surprised if the president decided to unilaterally cancel this,” said Goure, whose institute receives funding from Amazon. “I think once he sees the process, or the process is explained to him and the document is explained to him, I think this will all go away.”

In the meantime, some Senate Republicans wrote to the White House last week asking them to intervene.

In a letter to National Security Advisor John Bolton on Thursday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) asked that he order the Pentagon to delay the contract award “to ensure a fair and open process.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) made a similar request two weeks earlier, citing a Federal News Network report, which disclosed that the FBI and the DoD inspector general had begun inquiries on potential improprieties in the acquisition process.

While this back and forth with the White House and Capitol Hill adds to the saga that has been JEDI, the Congressional Research Service took a deep dive into the procurement.

CRS released a report, which the Federation of American Scientists obtained, on JEDI on July 16, providing a two-page summary of what has happened so far, including provisions in the 2020 defense authorization bills.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2019 Federal News Network. All rights reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.