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July 20, 2019, 10:33 a.m. EDT

Don’t delay JEDI cloud deal, Republican members of Congress say to Trump

After president suggested he may look into $10 billion cloud contract, ranking member of House Armed Services Committee and three other GOP representatives send letter

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By Jeremy C. Owens, MarketWatch , Jon Swartz


MarketWatch photo illustration/Getty Images
President Donald Trump has publicly feuded with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos

Four Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee asked President Donald Trump in a letter Thursday not to delay a $10 billion Pentagon cloud contract after he threatened to look into the matter.

President Trump said earlier Thursday that he planned to take a “strong look” at the deal under the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, plan after getting “tremendous complaints from other companies.” Any White House probe could push back an already delayed process; the Pentagon has said that it wants to pick a winner as early as Aug. 23, according to the Associated Press

Amazon.com Inc. /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN -0.28%  and Microsoft Corp. /zigman2/quotes/207732364/composite MSFT +0.82%  are the final contenders for the contract, after Oracle Corp. /zigman2/quotes/202180826/composite ORCL -0.59%  and International Business Machines Corp /zigman2/quotes/203856914/composite IBM +0.01% were eliminated in an earlier round. Oracle sued and claimed that Amazon had unfair advantages due to conflicts of interest, but a judge dismissed that case last week.

From January: Amazon, Oracle and IBM battle in mysterious world of military contracts

NBC News reported Thursday that Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, are two of six lawmakers who have “raised questions in letters to administration officials about the lack of competitive bidding and possible conflicts of interest in the process.”

In a letter Thursday that was obtained by MarketWatch, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, and three other GOP members of the committee overseeing the JEDI process warned against any further delays. The other members who signed were Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, and Rep. Robert Wittman, R-Va. All are ranking members on House Armed Services subcommittees.

A spokesperson for Thornberry confirmed the letter was authentic.

“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,” wrote the four members, who added that “moving to the cloud will help [the Department of Defense] operate faster, more efficiently, and compete with adversaries, like China.”

“While it is understandable that some of the companies competing for the contract are disappointed at not being selected as one of the finalists, further unnecessary delays will only damage our security and increase the costs of the contract,” the letter concluded.

See also: Microsoft is killing it in all businesses except for one

Critics of the contract selection process are alarmed it may exclude potential companies and consolidate too much information under one company, posing a long-term risk to national security.

The president has publicly feuded with Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post and was referred to as Jeff “Bozo” in a Trump tweet earlier this year. Oracle co-CEO Safra Catz was part of Trump’s transition team, has visited the White House for multiple meetings with tech executives, and has even been rumored as a candidate for top-level positions in the White House. She brought up the JEDI bidding at a private dinner with Trump last year, Bloomberg News reported at the time .

The federal government is looking into a possible antitrust probe of Amazon along with three other tech giants: Facebook Inc. /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB +0.03% , Alphabet Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202490156/composite GOOGL +0.23%   /zigman2/quotes/205453964/composite GOOG +0.27%  and Apple Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +0.94% Microsoft, after facing its own antitrust charges years ago, is not a target.

Microsoft was not immediately available for comment.

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Jeremy Owens is MarketWatch’s technology editor and San Francisco bureau chief. You can follow him on Twitter @jowens510. Jon Swartz is a senior reporter for MarketWatch in San Francisco, covering many of the biggest players in tech, including Netflix, Facebook and Google. Jon has covered technology for more than 20 years, and previously worked for Barron's and USA Today. Follow him on Twitter @jswartz.

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