Defense Secretary Esper Steps Aside In JEDI Cloud Contract Process, Citing Conflict

The contentious contract, worth up to $10 billion, will be awarded to either Amazon Web Services or Microsoft.


Defense Secretary Mark Esper is removing himself from any decision-making regarding the Pentagon’s contentious multi-billion dollar JEDI cloud contract after disclosing that one off his children works for “one of the original contract applicants.”

According to Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Jonathan Rath Hoffman, Esper has stepped aside from the procurement process due “to his adult son's employment with one of the original contract applicants.” Hoffman said that Esper was not legally required to remove himself, but did so anyway. According to LinkedIn, Esper’s son Luke has worked at IBM as a digital strategy consultant since February. Luke Esper declined to comment to CRN, while an IBM spokesperson said in a statement that “his role is unrelated to IBM's pursuit of JEDI.”

“Out of an abundance of caution to avoid any concerns regarding his impartiality, Secretary Esper has delegated decision making concerning the JEDI Cloud program to Deputy Secretary Norquist,” according to Hoffman. “The JEDI procurement will continue to move to selection through the normal acquisition process run by career acquisition professionals." In July, Esper began a review of the cloud computing plans and the JEDI procurement program.

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[RELATED: Oracle Says It Will Appeal ‘Unlawful’ JEDI Cloud Contract Decision]

In April, the Pentagon said it will award the contract to either Amazon Web Services or Microsoft. AWS and Microsoft, the first and second largest enterprise cloud providers, respectively, were the only two bidders in the $10 billion sweepstakes that met the military's "competitive range determination" to proceed in the process, the Pentagon said at the time.

Microsoft, IBM, Dell and HPE and Oracle had been vying for the contract. Oracle sued over the contract, saying the vendor was put at a disadvantage because two individuals who helped lead the JEDI project– Deap Ubhi, who served as JEDI project manager at the DoD, and Anthony DeMartino, chief of staff for the Deputy Secretary of Defense – had conflicts of interest because of their relationship with Amazon Web Services.

U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Eric Bruggink ruled this past July in favor of the government and Amazon Web Services.

Oracle said it would appeal that ruling.

As far as a timeframe for the awarding of a contract, a Pentagon spokesperson told CRN that “in order to preserve the integrity of the process, we will not provide additional specifics regarding exactly where we are within the source selection activity.”