The Pentagon named a cloud technology expert as its new chief information officer (CIO) and probable point person in the award of a major contract that figures in President Donald Trump's ongoing feud with Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos.
Dana Deasy, former CIO for the J.P. Morgan investment bank, is expected to start at the Defense Department in early May, just as the DoD enters the final stages of awarding a cloud technology contract worth up to $10 billion. Amazon is considered a frontrunner for the contract.
In announcing Deasy's appointment Thursday, Dana White, the Pentagon's chief spokesperson, said there will be a "full, open and transparent competition" for the cloud technology, which uses a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage and process data, rather than a local server.
White said there will be a single award for the contract, but it will not be sole-source and will involve firms besides the prime contractor. "We want people to be as creative as possible" in the competition for the contract, called the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure initiative, she said.
"This is important. This is not business as usual," White said. “This is the first of many competitions with respect to the cloud. And I'm excited that people are excited about this cloud because we are, and because we want to get the best deal for the American people, and we want to get the best technology for our warfighters.”
Despite Trump's attacks on Amazon and Bezos in recent weeks, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Thursday the president is staying out of negotiations for the cloud contract's award.
She said Trump "is not involved in the process," adding the Pentagon "runs a competitive bidding process."
However, Amazon Web Services is believed to be the only commercial cloud company with the necessary certifications to host classified data.
In recent weeks, Trump has taken to Twitter to criticize Amazon and Bezos, accusing the company of failing to pay its share of taxes and taking advantage of the struggling U.S. Postal Service. He has also continued to single out The Washington Post, owned by Bezos, for allegedly spreading "fake news."
Trump continued his attacks aboard Air Force One on Thursday night.
"Amazon is just not on an even playing field,” he told reporters. “You know, they have a tremendous lobbying effort, in addition to having The Washington Post, which is, as far as I'm concerned, another lobbyist."
Although the White House earlier said Trump is staying out of the Pentagon's cloud contract award, the president said he plans to “take a pretty serious look" overall at Amazon because "the playing field has to be leveled."
Amazon spokesmen have said that neither Bezos nor the company will comment on the president's criticisms.
In a Washington Post article Thursday, Frederick J. Ryan Jr., the Post's CEO and publisher, said Trump "appears to view ownership of a newspaper as a way to assert influence."
"Jeff sees the value of a strong, independent press," Ryan said. "Jeff has never proposed a story. Jeff has never intervened in a story. He's never critiqued a story. He's not directed or proposed editorials or endorsements. The decisions are made here."
As CIO at the Pentagon, cloud technology specialist Deasy "will be responsible for how we manage and use information, communications and cybersecurity," White said. "This is particularly important as we adopt cloud technology to make more informed and timely decisions on the battlefield."
She said Deasy "will also bring greater accountability to the department's information security posture."
His "extensive enterprise-level experience and leadership will ensure the department drives a culture of performance," White said.
As CIO at J.P. Morgan, Deasy presided over an information technology organization of 40,000 members worldwide with a budget of more than $9 billion. He also oversaw J.P. Morgan's first use of public cloud technology last year.
Deasy joined J.P. Morgan in late 2013 after serving as group CIO of BP PLC. He has also held CIO or senior IT positions at General Motors Co., Tyco International PLC and Rockwell International.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.