Esper Has No ‘Hard Timeline’ for Review of $10 Billion JEDI Deal

(Bloomberg) -- Defense Secretary Mark Esper says he has no “hard timeline” to complete his review of the disputed JEDI cloud-computing contract valued at as much as $10 billion.

Esper ordered the review after President Donald Trump endorsed criticism that Amazon.com Inc. was given an unfair advantage for the Pentagon project.

Esper Has No ‘Hard Timeline’ for Review of $10 Billion JEDI Deal

“I’ve gone back, and I do a lot of my own research, reading on the weekends,” Esper told reporters traveling with him to Europe this week. “So it’s kind of ingesting all that,” he said of material that includes questions and objections raised by members of Congress.

“I want to make sure I get to the point where I’m comfortable enough to know it,” so “I don’t have any hard timeline in mind,” he said. Esper took over as defense secretary in July, after decisions had been made on terms for the contract and after the field of competitors was narrowed to Amazon and Microsoft Corp.

Oracle Corp., which was among the bidders eliminated, has led a campaign making its case that the project was tainted by conflicts of interest that led to provisions favoring Amazon.

“Is JEDI the right strategy?” Esper asked. “Was it handled properly? Is it fair to the taxpayer? All those things. That’s kind of what I’m trying to understand” as well as the impact and timing of an ongoing inspector general’s review, he said. “So in some ways, the timeline isn’t completely mine.”

Esper said a “cloud-based AI capability is important to the warfighter” and “we need to move in that direction and sooner rather than later.”

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