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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Biden to spend another $1.6 billion to expand COVID-19 testing in schools and underserved areas

Walmart covid testing
  • President Joe Biden has announced a $1.6 billion investment in expanded COVID-19 testing.
  • Funds will go to testing K-8 schools and underserved communities, and increased genome sequencing.
  • Biden also called on Congress to pass his stimulus plan, which includes $50 billion for testing.
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President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that he will invest $1.6 billion to expand the availability of testing in K-8 schools and underserved areas, intended to serve as a “bridge” until Congress approves more funding.

During his first presidential town hall in Milwaukee on Tuesday, Biden said that by the end of July, the country will have 600 million vaccine doses available, enough for every American. But in the meantime, safety measures are still needed, and this new funding will be used to expand COVID-19 testing for K-8 schools and underserved populations, along with increased manufacturing for testing supplies and virus genome sequencing.

The Dept. of Health and Human Services and the Dept. of Defense will allocate $650 million to expand testing in K-8 schools and “underserved congregate setting” like homeless shelters, according to the White House, along with an $815 million investment to increase domestic manufacturing of testing supplies, such as filter pipette tips.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will invest nearly $200 million to identify and track emerging COVID-19 strains through genome sequencing, which will allow for a better understanding of how the virus spreads.

“As the Administration is working around the clock to vaccinate the population, we need to continue to do what we know works to protect public health: universal masking, physical distancing, and robust testing,” the White House said in a statement. “These down payments will serve as a bridge to comprehensive testing investments in the American Rescue Plan.”

While the $1.6 billion will significantly improve testing availability, the Biden administration said Congress still needs to pass the president’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which includes $50 billion to be used specifically for testing purposes.

“These investments are only the beginning of what is needed to expand testing nationwide and get the pandemic under control,” the White House statement said. “The American Rescue Plan will invest $50 billion to expand and support testing, including in priority settings like schools and shelters, and invest in US testing capacity so that public health officials can track the virus in real time and Americans can efficiently get results.”

According to the CDC, the US is averaging 1.7 million vaccinations per day, but the need for further testing remains a priority for Biden.

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The Trump-appointed NSA general counsel installed the day before Biden took office is now on leave due to a Department of Defense probe

nsa
Michael Ellis was installed as the NSA’s general counsel just the day before President Biden was sworn in.

  • The Trump-installed General Counsel of the National Security Agency has been put on administrative leave a day after starting the role, due to a Department of Defense inspector general probe, CNN reported. 
  • Michael Ellis’s installation just before President Joe Biden took office garnered criticism that the Trump administration was trying to burrow a loyalist in a civilian position. 
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Michael Ellis, the National Security Agency general counsel who was installed just a day before President Joe Biden took office, is now on administrative leave because the Department of Defense inspector general is investigating his appointment, CNN reported. 

Last week, acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller told the head of the NSA to install Ellis as general counsel by 6 p.m. on Saturday. The next day, the agency said it was moving forward with Ellis’s installation and announced that he would start the day before Biden was sworn in. 

“Mr. Ellis accepted his final job offer yesterday afternoon. NSA is moving forward with his employment,” an NSA official told Insider on Sunday. 

National security legal experts were critical of the effort to burrow Ellis in the role only a few days before a new administration took over. 

The NSA’s general counsel position is not a political one but a civil servant role, which means it will be harder for the incoming Biden administration to fire him. However, the new president can easily reassign him to a less important job.

Read more: Biden’s inauguration is unlike any before. Photos show how his ceremony compares to those of previous presidents.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was also critical of the move and on Monday sent a letter to Miller demanding he “immediately cease” Ellis’s installation. 

“The circumstances and timing – immediately after President Trump’s defeat in the election – of the selection of Mr. Ellis, and this eleventh-hour effort to push this placement in the last three days of this administration are highly suspect,” Pelosi wrote.

On Wednesday, a DoD spokesperson told Insider they did not comment on open investigations, and an NSA spokesperson said they don’t comment on personnel matters. 

Ellis’s appointment came shortly after President-elect Joe Biden was projected to win the 2020 election in November. During that same month, the Washington Post reported that Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Jack Reed asked the Pentagon’s inspector general to investigate Ellis’s appointment on the grounds of “improper political influence.”

Read more: I went inside the US Capitol’s immense security bubble to cover the most surreal presidential inauguration of my lifetime. Here’s what I saw.

“The combination of timing, comparative lack of experience of the candidate, the reported qualifications of the other finalists, and press accounts of White House involvement create a perception that political influence or considerations may have played an undue role in a merit-based civil service selection process,” Warner and Reed wrote in a letter in November, CNN reported. 

Ellis’s selection also came around when nearly a dozen senior government officials were fired, forced to resign, or resigned in protest, with outgoing President Donald Trump carrying out a political purge at the Defense Department. 

Ellis served as chief counsel to Rep. Devin Nunes, who is a Trump loyalist. The concerns over his installation relate to helping Nunes get access to intelligence documents in 2017 that aided Trump in politically attack Democrats, the Post reported. 

 

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