Defense

Esper steps aside on JEDI, pushes decision to deputy

DOD cloud 

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has recused himself from decisions regarding the controversial $10 billion JEDI cloud acquisition due to potential conflicts of interest, according to a DOD statement.

Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman issued a statement Oct. 22 indicating that Esper's son was formerly employed with one of the original contract bidders and the defense secretary has removed himself from informational meetings and decision-making regarding the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure program procurement.

"Although not legally required to, he has removed himself from participating in any decision making following the information meetings, due to his adult son's employment with one of the original contract applicants," Hoffman said.

Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist will now make decisions regarding the JEDI procurement, according to the statement.

"The JEDI procurement will continue to move to selection through the normal acquisition process run by career acquisition professionals," Hoffman said.

An IBM spokesperson confirmed to FCW that Luke Esper has worked for the company since February as a digital strategy consultant. "His role is unrelated to IBM's pursuit of JEDI," the spokesperson said in an email. IBM was one of two firms culled from the JEDI bidding early on for not meeting the base requirements; Oracle was the other.

No additional information on the timeline for a contract award was provided in the statement. Esper announced his review of the JEDI procurement shortly after taking DOD's top job in July, signaling that a contract award could be delayed. Esper told reporters in September that he was still reviewing the procurement and wanted to be "comfortable enough to know it."

The news comes just two months after the Defense Department's inspector general announced it was investigating the procurement process in August.

"We are reviewing the DOD's handing of the JEDI cloud acquisition, including the development of requirements and the request for proposal process," spokesperson Dwrena K. Allen wrote.

"In addition, we are investigating whether current or former DOD officials committed misconduct relating to the JEDI acquisition, such as whether any had any conflicts of interest related to their involvement in the acquisition process."

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is a staff writer at FCW covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at lwilliams@fcw.com, or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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