US Defence Secretary withdraws from $10bn JEDI Cloud contract review

24 October 2019 (Last Updated October 24th, 2019 10:25)

The US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper has recused himself from the decision-making process in a US Department of Defense Cloud computing contract to avoid a potential conflict of interest.

US Defence Secretary withdraws from $10bn JEDI Cloud contract review
Swearing-in Ceremony for US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at the White House in July 2019. Credit: The White House.

The US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper has recused himself from the decision-making process in a US Department of Defense Cloud computing contract to avoid a potential conflict of interest.

The decision to withdraw from the review of the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) Cloud computing contract award process is linked to his son being an employee of one of the original contract bidders.

Esper’s son, Luke Esper, has been employed with technology giant IBM since February, as per details posted on his LinkedIn page.

The ten-year JEDI contract with the Pentagon has a potential value of $10bn if all options are exercised.

IBM, Oracle, Amazon, Microsoft and other technology firms were in the initial race to secure the contract.

Last year, Amazon and Microsoft were shortlisted for the programme, which would eventually see only one of the two companies selected as the winner.

The DoD programme has been the subject of scrutiny after complaints emerged accusing the Pentagon of designing the requirements of the contract to favour Amazon.

In the wake of the complaints and controversy surrounding the programme, US President Donald Trump entrusted Mark Esper the job of reviewing the JEDI contract.

It is in this backdrop that Esper has decided to withdraw, although he was part of initial deliberations on the review process.

In a press statement, Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Jonathan Rath Hoffman said: “As part of this review process, he attended informational briefings to ensure he had a full understanding of the JEDI programme and the universe of options available to DoD to meet its Cloud computing needs.

“Although not legally required to, he has removed himself from participating in any decision making following the information meetings, due to his adult son’s employment with one of the original contract applicants.

“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.”