Pentagon probe unable to rule out White House influence on JEDI contract

FILE PHOTO: The Pentagon logo is seen behind the podium in the briefing room at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., January 8, 2020. REUTERS/Al Drago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon’s inspector general on Wednesday said it could not determine whether the White House influenced the award of a $10 billion contract to Microsoft Corp MSFT.N over Amazon (AMZN.O) after several officials said their conversations were privileged “presidential communications.”

Known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure Cloud, or JEDI, the $10 billion cloud computing contract is intended to give the military better access to data and technology from remote locations.

“We could not definitively determine the full extent or nature of interactions that administration officials had, or may have had, with senior DoD officials regarding the JEDI Cloud procurement because of the assertion of a ‘presidential communications privilege,’” the report said, referring to the Department of Defense by its acronym.

Amazon, originally considered to be the favorite to win the award, has blamed U.S. President Donald Trump for bias against the company and for improperly pressuring the Pentagon.

Amazon and Microsoft did not immediately return requests for comment on Wednesday’s announcement.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has rejected that there was bias and said the Pentagon made its choice fairly and freely without external influence.

The procurement process has been delayed by legal complaints and conflict of interest allegations.

Reporting by Chris Sanders; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis

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