A new biography by former Defense Secretary James Mattis claims US President Donald Trump was personally involved in the drawn-out contracting battle for a major $10 billion deal to provide cloud computing services to the Pentagon, according to website Task & Purpose.
The website, which got an advance copy of the book "Holding The Line: Inside Trump's Pentagon with Secretary Mattis”, coming out on 29 October and penned by Mattis’ speechwriter Guy Snodgrass, asserts that Donald Trump called the former Defense Secretary in summer of 2018 and instructed him to "screw Amazon" out of the opportunity to bid on the lucrative contract.
"Relaying the story to us during Small Group, Mattis said “We're not going to do that. This will be done by the book, both legally and ethically,”” Snodgrass wrote according to the website.
The White House has not yet responded with an official comment on the claims made in the book.
Amazon Versus Microsoft Battle
The US Department of Defense on Friday announced that Microsoft has won its Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract, worth up to $10 billion over a period of 10 years.
Microsoft thus beat out Amazon, considered by most pundits to be the front-runner to win the deal.
In its statement on 25 October Amazon said it was surprised at the decision to award the Pentagon contract to Microsoft.
"(Amazon Web Services) is the clear leader in cloud computing, and a detailed assessment purely on the comparative offerings clearly lead to a different conclusion," the statement read.
"We remain deeply committed to continuing to innovate for the new digital battlefield where security, efficiency, resiliency, and scalability of resources can be the difference between success and failure."
In its turn, Microsoft readdressed reporters to the Defense Department's announcement:
"We are working on this right now. In the meantime for more information see the DOD's announcement."
Amazon and Microsoft were chosen as finalists among several major companies, including Oracle and IBM, which were bidding to provide the US military with cloud computing and artificial intelligence on the battlefield, as part of the Pentagon’s Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure plan, known as JEDI.
Oracle had been fighting a separate legal battle, alleging that it was improperly excluded from the final selection process, which was tainted by improper conflicts of interest and violations of procurement law.
CNN reported in July this year that a document containing implied and explicit allegations regarding the contracting process compiled by Oracle had made its way to Trump's desk, with the President indicating he had concerns over the JEDI contract, and that the administration will be reviewing the matter.
Both the Government Accountability Office and the Court of Federal Claims ruled against Oracle’s attempts to force DoD to restart or to restructure the contract.
However, the Defense Department’s Inspector General is conducting its own review of the JEDI contracting process.
In a separate statement Friday, the Inspector General said its review has not found any evidence so far that would prevent the DoD from obtaining the contract award.
"To date, we have not found evidence that we believe would prevent the DoD from making a decision about the award of the contract," said Dwrena Allen, spokesperson for the inspector general's office, adding "We hope to have a completed report of our findings by the end of November, which we intend to release publicly, to the maximum extent possible."
Trump’s History With Bezos
Donald Trump has had a complicated history with Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post.
Back when he was running for president in 2016, Donald Trump called out Jeff Bezos’ ownership of The Washington Post, lambasting the purchase as an opportunity for Amazon to generate positive coverage.
The two men have racked up quite a history of clashes on Twitter; the US President also accused Amazon of taking advantage of the Postal Service although independent investigations have disagreed with that contention.
Mattis "Not Intending to Read the Book"
The new book by Guy Snodgrass, a retired Navy fighter pilot who served as chief speechwriter and communications director for most of Mattis' time in office, comes out on 29 October.
In Holding The Line: Inside Trump's Pentagon with Secretary Mattis, the author presents a fly-on-the-wall view of how the retired general operated inside the Pentagon.
The release was reportedly stalled by the Pentagon for pre-publication review, with Snodgrass receiving intimidating letters from DoD lawyers, but after filing a lawsuit the author was able to go ahead.
In response to the book and some of its claims, a spokeswoman for James Mattis, Candace Currier told Task & Purpose said:
"Mr. Snodgrass was a junior staffer who took notes in some meetings but played no role in decision making."
Snodgrass responded by sharing the citation of an award he received from Mattis, which said he was "integral in developing several foundational strategic guidance documents with far-reaching effects across the Department."
For his part, James Mattis, who served as United States Secretary of Defence from January 2017 through December 2018, has said he hasn't read the book and doesn't intend to do so, according to Currier.