In a few words Amazon couldn’t beat the incestual swampiness so they dove right in. In the past five years, Amazon increased lobbying spending by more than 400 percent, a rate of change that far exceeds rivals. Amazon lobbied more government agencies than any other tech company, pressed its case on as many issues as Google, and outspent everyone in the industry except for the search giant according to Bloomberg News. It seems to be working for them, but not so much for the taxpayers.
Right now, the Department of Defense is close to handing over a ten-year contract worth over $10 billion to Amazon Web Services (AWS) to handle all of the cloud computing for the Pentagon. This decision has been influenced by favoritism and intense lobbying.
Awarding a sole source contract harms national security. Fact.
A sole source contract and the process used to dole out this contract destroys competition for government wide cloud computing services, yet Amazon is so well connected that the Department of Defense seems immune to problems with this proposed contract. Multiple cloud computing providers would provide a safer alternative to a sole source contract and would provide some needed competition in a way that protects the taxpayer and the military deployed overseas.
Simply imagine a cyber-attack by, oh let’s say Iran off the top of our sanction heads. They clearly have the means and have a sanction induced motive to hack. If they only have to crash one system to compromise the Pentagon cloud that is a real threat. Yet this threat could be mitigated by two or three companies splitting the ten billion in tax payer money in order to mitigate any attacks by our adversaries.
Behind the scenes, Amazon has increased lobbying of lawmakers and government agencies. Last year, for the first time in nearly two decades, Amazon lobbied the Justice Department, which has broad criminal and civil enforcement powers spanning antitrust, national security and corporate wrongdoing. Giving this sole source contract to Amazon will simply reward the very behavior that this administration has said they are against.
This company is not favored by President Donald Trump and the President attacked Amazon in a Tweet arguing “I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the election, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!” President Trump’s complaint is accurate, yet the army of lobbyists seem undaunted. Amazon is the beneficiary of favorable laws passed because of intense lobbying efforts of local, state and federal officials.
Taxpayers will end up overpaying for these services with zero competition once Amazon establishes a monopoly on Pentagon contracting. The Defense Department has put the contract on temporary hold, but insists that a winner-take-all contract is the only option on the table right now. According to Defense Department spokesman Dana White. “But White said there’s been no change to the winner-take-all strategy that would cover an initial two-year contract and two options that may add as many as eight years. She said award of the contract in September remains the ‘notional’ target”, according to Bloomberg News.
One emerging concern with the outsourcing of data management to a private firm is that they may have sway over government policy. If they are hacked, will they have a motive to disclose that to the federal government for fear of losing a multi-billion dollar contract? The motive will be to keep it quiet and try to mitigate the damage without disclosing the breach. That is a problem. Also, there is the concern that anti-war staffers at Amazon may try to impact policy by refusing to conduct some activities or staff may band together to pressure the government to change policy. This very scenario happened, according to the New York Times, with Google when thousands of Google staffers wrote a public “letter protesting the company’s involvement in a Pentagon program that uses artificial intelligence to interpret video imagery and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes.” Same may happen with a sole source contract in the hands of Amazon run by a liberal Jeff Bezos.
Letting the Pentagon proceed with a “Prime” contract is not good for the taxpayer, national security and government contracting precedent.