The Pentagon may axe its $10 billion JEDI cloud-computing contract with Microsoft because of endless litigation from Amazon, a report says

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella next to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

  • The Pentagon may pull its $10 billion cloud-computing JEDI defense contract with Microsoft, the WSJ reported.
  • The contract has been swamped with litigation from Amazon since Microsoft was awarded it in 2019.
  • The contract was to store and manage sensitive military and defense data.
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Officials at the Pentagon are reportedly considering ending the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract it has with Microsoft in light of endless litigation from Amazon, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

In October 2019, the Department of Defense (DoD) awarded Microsoft its JEDI contract, valued at up to $10 billion, to store and manage sensitive military and defense data.

Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud arm of Amazon which sought the contract for itself, has challenged the decision ever since, alleging political intervention from former President Donald Trump.

“We are going to have to assess where we are in regards to the ongoing litigation and determine what the best path forward is for the department,” deputy Pentagon press secretary Jamal Brown told the Associated Press on Monday.

A Pentagon report to Congress on January 28 said another AWS win in court could delay the implementation of the JEDI program for even longer, per the Journal.

Read more: Someone pretending to be a Microsoft employee filed a fake complaint about the $10 billion JEDI cloud deal Amazon claims it deserves

“The prospect of such a lengthy litigation process might bring the future of the JEDI Cloud procurement into question,” the report said.

AWS first filed a protest against Microsoft’s victory in the battle for the contract in November 2019. The company alleged that President Donald Trump improperly influenced the Pentagon to stop the contract being awarded to Amazon because of his feud with its CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post.

Trump had previously accused Bezos of letting the Post publish what he considered to be unfavorable coverage of his administration.

Last month, the Pentagon tried to dismiss Amazon’s challenge of the contract award, but it failed.

JEDI contract should involve more companies

Lawmakers and government-contracting experts told the Journal that the JEDI contract should be pulled because having a single company, such as Microsoft, controlling the program was an insufficient and outdated model.

They told the Journal the DoD should include multiple companies in the contract, which would reduce the chance of legal battles from excluded companies.

Microsoft said in a statement to the Journal: “We agree with the US [government] that prolonged litigation is harmful and has delayed getting this technology to our military service members who need it.

“We stand ready to support the Defense Department to deliver on JEDI and other mission critical DoD projects.”

Amazon did not comment for the Journal’s report.

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Defense Department pauses plan to offer COVID-19 vaccine to Guantanamo Bay prisoners after GOP criticism

guantanamo bay
In this Wednesday, April 17, 2019 photo reviewed by U.S. military officials, the control tower is seen through the razor wire inside the Camp VI detention facility in Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.

  • The Department of Defense is pausing a plan to offer COVID-19 vaccines to Guantanamo Bay prisoners.
  • The plan drew criticism from GOP lawmakers who said it prioritized terrorists.
  • Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said the department is reviewing measures to keep troops safe.
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The Department of Defense is pausing a plan to offer COVID-19 vaccines to detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, made the announcement in a tweet Saturday, saying that no detainees at the prison have been vaccinated.

“We’re pausing the plan to move forward, as we review force protection protocols,” he said. “We remain committed to our obligations to keep our troops safe.”

The plan to offer vaccines to prisoners at Guantanamo was reported by The New York Times on Thursday.

Republican lawmakers criticized the announcement, saying that the plan was prioritizing terrorists over average Americans.

Read more: Vaccine inequity on Capitol Hill: Members of Congress got the shots but essential Hill workers are left waiting

Guantanamo Bay currently has 40 prisoners, according to the Times. One of them is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who has been accused of being the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks.

“President Biden told us he would have a plan to defeat the virus on day 1. He just never told us that it would be to give the vaccine to terrorists before most Americans,” Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the GOP leader in the House, said in a tweet Saturday morning.

McCarthy also tweeted the news that the plan would be paused, saying “Good.”

Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York also criticized the plan in a tweet, calling it “inexcusable” and “un-American.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines encourage vaccinating correctional staff and incarcerated people at the same time to avoid outbreaks. The CDC also highlights the increased risk of becoming ill in a prison facility due to being inside in close quarters.

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Trump’s acting secretary of defense is working to install a Trump loyalist as the top lawyer for the NSA just days before the president leaves office

Christopher Miller
Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller at a Veterans Day wreath-laying ceremony led by President Donald Trump at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, November 11, 2020.

  • Trump’s acting secretary of defense told the head of the National Security Agency to install a Trump loyalist as the top lawyer at the agency by 6 pm on Saturday.
  • NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone did not honor Christopher Miller’s request by the deadline.  
  • Nakasone was not in favor of Ellis’s selection and is working to delay his placement. 
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Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller told the head of the National Security Agency to install a Trump loyalist as the top lawyer at the agency, The Washington Post reported.

Miller ordered that Michael Ellis be appointed as general counsel by 6 pm on Saturday, but NSA Director Gen. Paul Nakasone did not follow that order as of the deadline, according to CNN

The Post reported Ellis was tapped for the job back in November by Pentagon General Counsel Paul C. Ney Jr., but he still hasn’t taken the position and has to finish administrative procedures.

His selection came a shortly after Biden was projected to win the presidential election. Around the same time, nearly a dozen senior government officials were fired, forced to resign, or resigned in protest, including a political purge at the Defense Department by President Donald Trump.

Several sources told The Post that Nakasone was not in favor of Ellis’s selection to the role and wanted to delay his placement. 

The general counsel position at the NSA is not a political one but a civil servant role, which means it would be harder for the incoming Biden administration to fire him.

Sources told The Post that Nakasone and others are worried that the Trump administration is trying to plant political personnel in a civilian role, which could violate a long-standing policy.

National security legal experts were critical of the effort to install Ellis into the role just a few days before Trump leaves office.

In November, when Ellis’s nomination was first announced, Susan Hennessey, a former NSA attorney, said it “appears to be an attempt to improperly politicize an important career position.”

On Saturday, Hennessy said if Ellis is installed then Biden should remove him on the day he’s inaugurated. 

“At this point, no one should extend this selection process the benefit of the doubt. By all indications, the Trump admin is violating civil service rules and politicizing an apolitical role. If Ellis is installed tonight, Biden should remove him on Day One,” she said in a tweet.

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‘I cannot wait to leave this job’: Trump’s defense secretary joked with reporters about the end of his term, the future of the department

Christopher Miller
Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller at a Veterans Day wreath-laying ceremony led by President Donald Trump at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, November 11, 2020.

  • Outgoing acting defense secretary Christopher Miller on Thursday appeared to josh with reporters, saying he “cannot wait to leave this job, believe me.”
  • “Oh, did I say that out loud,” he added.
  • Miller has been viewed as a temporary placeholder after being selected by President Donald Trump in December to replace Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who was fired a month before.
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Outgoing acting defense secretary Christopher Miller on Thursday appeared to joke with reporters, saying he “cannot wait to leave this job, believe me.”

Speaking to reporters, Miller made several light-hearted quips about the state of the defense industry and America’s military posture ahead of the inauguration on January 20.

“And, uh, it’s kind of the future of the department, even though a lot of people just want to continue doing the same old thing again and again,” Miller said, according to a Defense Department transcript of the talks. “I think that’s the definition of insanity, isn’t it?”

“Oh, did I say that out loud,” he added.

Miller, a former US Army Special Forces soldier and director of the National Counterterrorism Center, has been viewed as a temporary placeholder after being selected by President Donald Trump in December. He replaced Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who was fired in the previous month.

Esper was opposed to using active-duty military forces to quell the Black Lives Matter protests across the country in the summer, a proposition Trump made several times in leaked calls with senior officials. After his termination, Esper co-signed an opinion column with all of the 10 living defense secretaries, warning that the military has no role in the presidential transitions and that the election results had been certified.

As the end of Miller’s term draws near, the defense secretary appeared to make that fact clear. 

“I mean, I cannot wait to leave this job, believe me,” Miller said after being asked a question about the Pentagon’s controversial and lucrative defense contracts. 

Asked by a reporter what he was “hoping to see” from US Northern Command, the military command supporting civilian assets in the US, ahead of the inauguration, Miller gave a literal answer.

“I needed to look the commander in the eye, because, you know, the president, [Secretary of Defense], me … I, whatever the correct English is, you guys can clean that up,” Miller said. 

“I wanted to look the guy in the eye and get a sense for his soul, and I think he probably needed to do that for me as well,” he continued. “So, you know, that was why I really felt it important to go out and sit down and have a cup of coffee with him, talk about it, small group, think through it, make sure we kinda had that mind meld.”

President-elect Joe Biden nominated retired US Army Gen. Lloyd Austin for the top Pentagon position. Austin will require a waiver from Congress, due to a law requiring defense secretaries to be out of the military for at least seven years.

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The Pentagon blocked the DC National Guard from receiving riot gear or interacting with protesters without explicit approval from Trump’s defense secretary

GettyImages 1295091200 WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 07:  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
DC National Guard guardsmen stand outside the U.S. Capitol on January 07, 2021 in Washington, DC. Supporters of President Trump had stormed and desecrated the building the day before as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification.

  • The Pentagon placed major restrictions on the DC National Guard leading up to Wednesday’s attempted insurrection, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
  • Officials curtailed the ability of DC guardsmen to deploy troops, receive ammo and riot gear, engage with protesters, share equipment with local police, and use surveillance without explicit approval from Trump’s acting Defense Secretary, Christopher Miller, according to the Post.
  • Guardsmen didn’t arrive to support US Capitol Police — who were ill-prepared and quickly overrun — until more than two hours after the USCP chief called for them, according to the Post.
  • The muted approach was allegedly meant to avoid backlash that followed an aggressive response to BLM protests last summer, but the response has drawn sharp criticism from Democratic lawmakers, activists, and even some law enforcement experts for being insufficient.
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In the days before Trump supporters’ attempted insurrection, the Department of Defense placed major limitations on the tactics, equipment, and resources the DC National Guard could make use of in dealing with protesters, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Pentagon officials sent memos on January 4 and January 5 banning DC guardsmen from receiving ammo and riot gear, engaging with protesters (except for self-defense), sharing equipment with local police, or using surveillance or air assets without explicit approval from Trump’s acting Defense Secretary, Christopher Miller, according to the Post.

The additional bureaucratic hurdle delayed the DC Guard’s response after US Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund asked on Wednesday for 200 guardsmen to provide backup – with guardsmen not arriving until 2.5 hours later – according to the Post.

Five fatalities, including one law enforcement officer, have been confirmed so far in connection with Wednesday’s violence.

USCP, who had only planned for peaceful protests – despite numerous warning indicators suggesting protesters may turn violent – were massively vastly outnumbered by the rioters and were quickly overrun.

It’s not clear how many officers were on-duty Wednesday, but USCP has a total of 2,300 officer and civilian employees who patrol 16 acres of land and protect 535 members of Congress and their staff.  By comparison, Minneapolis has around 840 uniformed officers who police 425,000 residents spread across a 6,000-acre area, according to the Associated Press.

DC Guards were not initially deployed to the US Capitol in large numbers, in part because city and Pentagon officials wanted to avoid the backlash that followed Trump’s aggressive use of federal law enforcement to attack peaceful protesters following the death of George Floyd, according to the Post.

USCP itself rejected multiple offers for help from federal law enforcement ahead of Wednesday’s events, and according to the Post, Mayor Muriel Bowser had only requested 340 guardsmen, mostly to monitor traffic and public transit.

But DC guard troops answer to state governors, and since DC is not a state, Bowser had to request additional support on Wednesday from the Pentagon, which answers to Trump – a task that proved to be difficult and slow-moving.

Bowser and her staff, as well as lawmakers trapped in the Capitol, called on the governors of neighboring Maryland and Virginia, who themselves were initially ignored by the Pentagon when they asked military leaders to deploy additional guardsmen.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, who effectively commands the DC Guard, said at a press conference Thursday that 6,200 guardsmen would be deployed by the weekend and that a “non-scalable” 7-foot fence would be set up around the Capitol. He added that military officials had planned for Wednesday assuming it would be like other recent protests and that not in their “wildest imagination” did they expect rioters to breach the Capitol.

But decisions by law enforcement – USCP as well as local and federal agencies – not to prepare for riots have drawn sharp criticism. Former DC Metropolitan Police Chief Charles Ramsey slammed the police response, telling CNN that “they need to be locking them up without question,” with regards to rioters inside the Capitol.

USCP “were not prepared for today,” Democrat Rep. Val Demings told the Baltimore Sun, adding: “I certainly thought that we would have had a stronger show of force.”

Activists also pointed to the disparity between law enforcement’s relatively passive response to violent protesters Wednesday and the mass arrests and aggression used against largely peaceful anti-racism protests.

Sund, the USCP chief, and another high-ranking Capitol security officer have already announced their plans to resign, and more are expected to go.

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