Pentagon Investigating Whether Amazon Employee Tilted JEDI Contract

Ivan Cholakov/

The department’s investigation into potential conflicts of interest regarding the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract could push the award date back as much as three months.

The Defense Department will review whether a former employee—who now works at Amazon Web Services—improperly impacted the integrity of its $10 billion JEDI cloud contract.

The conflict of interest investigation comes approximately one month before the Pentagon was set to award the $10 billion contract—to host, analyze and process swaths of classified and sensitive military data—to one of four competing companies: AWS, Microsoft, IBM or Oracle.

In a partially redacted court filing released Friday in Oracle’s suit against the Defense Department, government lawyers explained their motion to stay—or delay—the case stemmed from “new information” regarding “possible conflicts of interest involving former DoD employee, Deap Ubhi.”

Ubhi worked in the Pentagon’s Defense Digital Service for almost two years in between jobs at Amazon Web Services.

The court filing states JEDI’s award date could be pushed back three months, but it less clear about exactly what new information came to light to merit the investigation.

The portions of the court filing detailing the new information are redacted, but the filing indicates it was presented to Defense Department Contracting Officer Chanda Brooks on Feb. 12, six months after she determined Ubhi “did not negatively impact the integrity of the JEDI procurement,” according to an affidavit attached to the court filing.

Brooks reached her initial determination based on her understanding that Ubhi “promptly recused himself” from the JEDI procurement Oct. 31, 2017, after AWS expressed interest in purchasing a startup he owned.

“In light of this new information, I am re-opening my earlier investigation and reconsidering my earlier no impact determination with regard to Mr. Ubhi,” Brooks wrote in an affidavit, following several lines of redacted information.

In its December lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Oracle alleges AWS created a conflict of interest when it rehired Ubhi in November 2017 after Ubhi spent close to two years working for the Pentagon—including on the JEDI contract—within its Defense Digital Service.

Oracle alleges that Ubhi had significant influence in shaping the JEDI acquisition. In legal filings, the Pentagon acknowledged Ubhi worked on the JEDI contract for seven weeks but stated his role was limited and they key acquisitions decisions were made after Ubhi left. Ubhi recused himself from JEDI-related work in October 2017, one month before he was rehired at AWS, according to legal filings.

"Although we disagree with these characterizations, we do not dispute that Mr. Ubhi participated in early discussions regarding the single-award approach and potential JEDI requirements,” lawyers for the Defense Department stated.

The JEDI contract has been controversial since its inception 18 months ago, with companies taking issue with the Pentagon’s decision to issue the contract to a single company and alleging the acquisition was slanted toward AWS. AWS, through its contract with the CIA, is the only commercial cloud company that currently hosts secret and top secret classified government data.