News Release

Amazon and Pentagon

MAY JEONG, may.s.jeong at gmail.com, @mayjeong
Jeong recently wrote the piece “’Everybody Immediately Knew That It Was for Amazon’: Has Bezos Become More Powerful In D.C. Than Trump?” for Vanity Fair.

Jeong writes: “There’s a new scandal quietly unfolding in Washington. It’s far bigger than Housing Secretary Ben Carson buying a $31,000 dinette set for his office, or former EPA chief Scott Pruitt deploying an aide to hunt for a deal on a used mattress. It involves the world’s richest man, President Trump’s favorite general, and a $10 billion defense contract. And it may be a sign of how tech giants and Silicon Valley tycoons will dominate Washington for generations to come.

“The controversy involves a plan to move all of the Defense Department’s data — classified and unclassified — on to the cloud. The information is currently strewn across some 400 centers, and the Pentagon’s top brass believes that consolidating it into one cloud-based system, the way the CIA did in 2013, will make it more secure and accessible. That’s why, on July 26, the Defense Department issued a request for proposals called JEDI, short for Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure. Whoever winds up landing the winner-take-all contract will be awarded $10 billion — instantly becoming one of America’s biggest federal contractors.

“But when JEDI was issued, on the day Congress recessed for the summer, the deal appeared to be rigged in favor of a single provider: Amazon. According to insiders familiar with the 1,375-page request for proposal, the language contains a host of technical stipulations that only Amazon can meet, making it hard for other leading cloud-services providers to win — or even apply for — the contract. One provision, for instance, stipulates that bidders must already generate more than $2 billion a year in commercial cloud revenues — a ‘bigger is better’ requirement that rules out all but a few of Amazon’s rivals. …

“In a larger sense, the JEDI contract represents the growing clout that technology companies are wielding in Washington — and how they are increasingly wiring the swamp for their own benefit. Amazon has spent $67 million on lobbying since 2000 — including more this year than Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo combined.”

Jeong is an award-winning magazine writer and investigative reporter. She is best known for her months-long investigation into the MSF hospital bombing in Kunduz, Afghanistan for The Intercept. This won her the 2017  South Asian Journalists Association’s Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding Report on South Asia. She is also a visiting scholar at the New York University Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.See IPA news release from 2013: “CIA Cloud Over Jeff Bezos’s Washington Post.”