DOD IG omitted evidence of alleged corruption in JEDI program
The auditor reported an email that a DOD staff member wrote to Donnelly after Mattis met Bezos on August 10, stating: “The boss said he was ‘99.9% there’ in terms of moving to the cloud. ” (Mattis told DOD IG that meetings with other industry leaders and the Central Intelligence Agency also motivated his decision to adopt cloud services.)
As the New York Times reported, what the DOD IG did not disclose was another email the same staff member sent that day, informing Donnelly, “The face to face seemed to be going very well. The large group seemed to turn into one [Amazon Web Services] sales pitch. The boss was nice and courteous but I didn’t have a good atmosphere. (Ethics lawyers generally do not advise the defense secretary to attend introductory meetings.)
A few days later, Donnelly and his colleague, Anthony DeMartino, apparently exchanged another email which was not disclosed in the DOD IG report, nor in the collection of emails obtained by The Intercept, nor in the New York Times article. Instead, he was mentioned in depositions from Donnelly and DeMartino, who had served as Mattis’ deputy chief of staff Patrick Shanahan, and was also cleared of any wrongdoing.
The interviewer showed DeMartino an August 14, 2017 email, which he sent to Donnelly, stating, “Between us. To the Microsoft vs. Amazon discussion, ”and asked what he meant. (It is not clear whether this “discussion” directly concerned the future JEDI contract, but the companies eventually emerged as the two leaders due to the government’s strict technical requirements for its suppliers – restrictions including competitors like Oracle and IBM. complained prevented fair competition.)
DeMartino replied: “[Redacted individual] who was on the trip talked about Amazon and Microsoft. The interviewer asked what actions Shanahan had taken based on the assessment and what discussions the two had about Amazon after the trip, and DeMartino replied that he didn’t think there had been any. .
Shanahan, a former Boeing executive who would go on to become Acting Defense Secretary, was not one of the officials DOD IG investigated for signs of corruption, but he was heavily involved in leading the creation of the Pentagon’s Cloud Adoption Strategy and worked closely with Pentagon Acquisitions Manager Ellen Lord, former CEO of Textron. According to the report, witnesses told the auditor that Shanahan or Lord made the final decision on using a win-win contract for the JEDI program – which companies and lawmakers have complained about contradicts best practices. and unfairly neglecting competition.
The DOD IG interviewer did not insist further on DeMartino about his August 14 email to Donnelly, but asked Donnelly, who noted that further down in the email, Shanahan had asked, ” how do the microsoft of the world fit into the equation? “
Donnelly said someone, whose name was redacted from the transcript, responded, “Microsoft trying to get into the game especially on ML [machine learning], but still a generation, which I think generation, behind Amazon and Google in my opinion, then he says one area that I think Microsoft is ahead of is augmented reality and virtual reality.
The comments were not included in the DOD IG’s dismissal of allegations that pro-Amazon bias tainted the JEDI acquisition, nor in its discussion of White House pressure to hurt the chances of Amazon to win the contract.
The allegations of pro-Amazon prejudices date back to April 2017, when Mattis had just started to assess the challenges of military data storage. DOD IG reported that Donnelly had no role in any eventual JEDI purchase decisions, but critics nonetheless argued that she was giving Amazon preferential treatment while Pentagon leadership investigated the issue and solutions. possible. That month, an unidentified Pentagon member asked Donnelly and Admiral Craig Faller, another advisor to Mattis, whether to accept a call with Bezos, which ultimately did not materialize. As reported by The New York Times, Donnelly replied, “I think he’s the genius of our time, so why not.”
The DOD IG report entirely omitted that the answer even existed, despite asking her about it in an August 2019 deposition. “Well, that was probably flippant language for an official email,” he said. Donnelly recognized during the interview.
Instead, the report mentioned another email Donnelly sent on April 23 with the subject line “Why Bezos,” which listed the reasons Mattis had met the mega-billionaire. The DOD IG suppressed some statements, and among those that were not reported by The New York Times were: “[In] 20 years since Amazon overtook Wal-Mart in terms of market capitalization.
Further redactions to the email made it look like Donnelly was giving equal weight to another defense contractor Bezos founded and his rival. The DOD IG reported that she wrote that the CEO of Amazon has launched “a space company (Blue Origin) that, along with SpaceX, is transforming space flight.” What the listener failed to point out was that Donnelly went on to say, “It is worth noting that Blue Origin has a productive / symbiotic relationship with United Launch Alliance (Boeing, etc.), as opposed to SpaceX , which challenges ULA head-on. “
Part of the DOD IG’s rationale for erasing Donnelly was that it did not have the final say on who should actually meet with the Secretary of Defense. That power rested, the auditor said, with Mattis’ chief of staff, Kevin Sweeney. However, the DOD IG report failed to disclose a revealing line from an April 21 email to Donnelly and Faller: “[Chief of Staff] relies on you for review by SecDef.
Michael Levy, an attorney for Donnelly, wrote in a statement to The Intercept: “She played no role or wielded influence under any government contract, including – as the Department of Defense repeatedly confirmed this – the JEDI contract.
“After reviewing these and many other emails and conducting numerous interviews, the [DOD IG] released a detailed report which concluded that Ms Donnelly acted quite appropriately and did not provide preferential treatment or better access to Amazon or anyone, ”Levy added. “He concluded this because it is the truth.”
When asked why the DOD IG excluded the April 2017 messages from the report and whether the auditor reviewed them while assessing whether there had been any wrongdoing, DOD IG spokesperson Dwrena Allen said: conclusions. “
Nonetheless, in light of the New York Times article on Tuesday, Senator Mike Lee and Representative Ken Buck criticized Amazon’s alleged influence on the program. “It is becoming increasingly clear that Amazon used its market power and paid connections to bypass ethical boundaries and avoid competition in an attempt to win this contract. Now, more than ever, we must ask Amazon, under oath, if it attempted to unduly influence the biggest federal contract in history, ”the two said.
They are not the only ones calling for a more in-depth review of the JEDI program. Cloud service provider Oracle, which initially complained to DOD IG about alleged corruption among defense officials, has filed a lawsuit alleging a distorted acquisition and recently appealed to the Supreme Court earlier this week. year.