GOP Lawmakers Seek Probe of Amazon's JEDI Contract Actions Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, in the Hart Senate Office Building on October 12, 2020, in Washington, D.C. (Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images)
By Sandy Fitzgerald | Tuesday, 04 May 2021 08:02 AM
Lawmakers Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., are pushing Attorney General Merrick Garland to open up an investigation into the possible anticompetitive actions by Amazon while it vied for the multi-billion Department of Defense "JEDI" cloud-computing contract in 2019.
In their letters, Lee and Buck say they're concerned that the tech giant may have "attempted to monopolize one or markets relating to government and/or commercial cloud computing services by improperly influencing the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) procurement process,” reports The Wall Street Journal, which reviewed the lawmakers' requests to Garland.
Amazon eventually lost the 10-year, $10 billion contract to rival Microsoft Corp., after competing along with several other tech companies. But along the way, Lee and Buck say that Amazon may have violated federal conflict-of-interest and antitrust laws.
Amazon has not responded to The Wall Street Journal's requests for comment about the lawmakers' demands but has previously insisted that its cloud subsidiary had not received preferential treatment.
Lee and Buck claim in their letter that there were undisclosed payments made between a Department of Defense official and an Amazon consultant.
They also claim that a different DOD official had previously worked as an Amazon consultant who played "an integral role in drafting directives regarding the Department’s cloud acquisition strategy" even though he had been instructed to recuse himself from matters regarding Amazon.
Lee and Buck also wrote a separate letter to Bezos to request all communications between Amazon and former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, along with his communications with the two DOD officials.
Amazon has been contesting the decision to award the JEDI contract to Microsoft, contending that it had been treated unfairly in the process because then-President Donald Trump influenced the decision.
The company's Web Services division is the world's largest cloud-computing company, commanding 64.5% of the market, according to the research firm Gartner.
In its complaint to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in 2019, Amazon accused Trump of launching "repeated public and behind-the-scenes attacks" on the contract to steer it away from Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos, who Trump has long considered an enemy.
The DOD in March said it may reconsider the JEDI contract if a federal judge does not dismiss Amazon's allegations, but in late April, Amazon's bid to win back the contract stayed alive, when the claims court Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith rejected motions by the DOD and Microsoft to dismiss Amazon's challenge, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile, Oracle Corp. has also raised concerns about the contacts between Amazon, Mattis, and other DOD officials before the cloud contract was awarded.
At that time, Amazon denied that it got any preferential treatment, and the Pentagon said the JEDI bid process was "open, transparent and full."
The lawmakers' demands come while Amazon is undergoing antitrust scrutiny both in Congress and from domestic and foreign regulatory agencies.
Most of the investigations focus on Amazon's retail side, including the amount of data it collects and allegations that the company has "monopoly power" over sellers.