The Defense Department’s (DoD) award to Microsoft of its 10-year Joint Enterprise Defense Initiative (JEDI) contract for general purpose cloud computing in October 2019 was not influenced by pressure from the White House, according to a report issued today by the DoD’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

That’s one key takeaway from the 300-page OIG report, which covers in painstaking detail the saga of the JEDI contract, and remains hung up in court as a result of an Amazon Web Services protest of the award.

The OIG’s finding also backs up testimony to Congress last year by DoD CIO Dana Deasy, who told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the contract award was based on guidance from 50 government and civilian cloud experts that were divided into teams whose identities were kept secret. Deasy testified that he had not shared “proprietary source information” on the process with the Defense Secretary or the Deputy Secretary, and said the contract award was “not influenced” by outside forces “including the White House.”

In its report issued today, the OIG said it was unable to fully review the question of White House influence because of the assertion of “presidential communications privilege” which “resulted in several DoD witnesses being instructed by the DoD Office of General Counsel not to answer our questions about potential communications between White House and DoD officials about JEDI.”

“However, we believe the evidence we received showed that the DoD personnel who evaluated the contract proposals and awarded Microsoft the JEDI Cloud contract were not pressured regarding their decision on the award of the contract by any DoD leaders more senior to them, who may have communicated with the White House,” the report says.

“We interviewed the personnel involved in the factor evaluation and source selection processes, including factor and selection board chairs, the Source Selection Authority, and the Procuring Contracting Officer,” OIG said. “Most of their identities and involvement in the procurement award were unknown to White House staff and even to the senior DoD officials.”

“None of these witnesses told us they felt any outside influence or pressure for or against a particular competitor as they made their decisions on the award of the contract. These witnesses also told us that public statements from the President and ‘media swirl’ about the contract did not directly or indirectly influence the integrity of the procurement process or the outcome of the JEDI Cloud source selection,” OIG said.

The OIG report does not leave DoD immune from any criticism in the process.  Among other things, it finds evidence to substantiate ethics violations against one current and one former agency official, but says that neither of them influenced the ultimate contract award. The report also says OIG could not substantiate allegations that former Defense Secretary James Mattis provided preferential treatment in the contract process, saying that he gave similar treatment to a number of firms that might be interested in the JEDI contract.

The OIG also found that DoD’s “decision to award the JEDI Cloud contract to a single contractor was consistent with applicable law and acquisition standards.”

“The Inspector’s General final report on the JEDI Cloud procurement confirms that the Department of Defense conducted the JEDI Cloud procurement process fairly and in accordance with law,” the department said in a statement. “The IG’s team found that there was no influence by the White House or DOD leadership on the career source selection boards who made the ultimate vendor selection. This report should finally close the door on corporate-driven attacks on the career procurement officials who have been working tirelessly to get the much needed JEDI Cloud computing environment into the hands of our frontline warfighters while continuing to protect American taxpayers.”

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.