The occupier of the Oval Office is using the power of his office to build his personal wealth, to reward his personal friends, and to punish those whom he perceives as his personal enemies. So, here we go again, with Trump intervening personally in a Defense Department contract.
The Pentagon is delaying the award of a $10 billion contract to Amazon for an upgrade of its cloud-computing services pending a review by Secretary Mark Esper who was just confirmed last week. Trump complained about the award two weeks ago, saying “his concern was based on what he called ‘tremendous complaints’ from competitors of Amazon Web Services, the division of the merchandising giant seen as the all-but-certain winner of the contract.”
In the last couple of weeks, one of those competitors somehow got a one-page document, dominated by a chart, onto Trump’s desk. That chart is titled “A Conspiracy to Create a Ten Year DoD Cloud Monopoly,” and according to CNN’s sources “is identical to one created by Oracle’s top Washington lobbyist, Kenneth Glueck, an executive vice president with the company.” The flow chart consists of pictures of Amazon employees and executives and current and former Pentagon officials, “with photographs of the previous two secretaries of Defense, Ash Carter (featured alongside President Obama) and Trump’s former Defense Secretary, James Mattis” and “images of dollar signs, arrows, and a heart linking the various figures.” Clearly, Oracle knows its audience well. Give him pictures of people he hates and tell him it’s a conspiracy, and boom, you’re in the running for a $10 billion contract you probably don’t have the capacity to fulfill.
“Experts on federal contracting say it is extremely rare for a president to intervene in a contract competition and improper to do it for political reasons,” The New York Times reports, writing that Trump has privately and publicly “questioned why Mr. Bezos should profit from one of the biggest leaps in Pentagon technology in decades.” The only companies that have stayed in the running for the contract are Amazon and Microsoft because they have the robust infrastructure deemed necessary to bring the Pentagon’s aging and disparate system up to snuff. Amazon already has the contract for modernizing the CIA’s systems, and the only discussion that had been active about the contract as of Thursday was whether Amazon would get the whole thing or split the project with Microsoft.
Oracle and another competitor, IBM, had been taken out of contention because the Pentagon deemed they don’t have advanced enough technology to do the job. It’s not clear if either is back under consideration after Trump’s tantrum. Once again, he’s ego and his paranoid delusions are overruling national security.