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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

As the Pentagon moves military information systems into the cloud, some industry experts and executives are questioning the wisdom of awarding the contract to just one vendor — particularly since that vendor might well be Amazon.

Why it matters: Sure, Amazon's competitors want a piece of this business. But they're also raising arguments about whether any single cloud service provider can meet the Defense Department's unique needs.

What they're saying: Rivals argue that the Pentagon's draft RFP (request for proposal) shows a pro-Amazon bent. But none would go on the record to cite specifics.

Concerns with Amazon: Amazon has deep experience in this space — and it has previously won two government cloud contracts, including with the CIA.

  • But when the Pentagon went looking earlier this year for a vendor to prep its systems for the cloud migration and chose a company that partners with Amazon.com, competitors cried foul, and the Pentagon cut the size of the award drastically.
  • Oracle's Safra Catz raised concerns about the Pentagon having a preference for Amazon to President Trump last week, according to a report by Bloomberg's Jennifer Jacobs. Trump then reportedly indicated he wanted the process to be fair.
  • The Trump factor: Trump's got a bone to pick with Amazon, as Axios' Jonathan Swan has reported (and many White House tweets have documented). Oracle declined to comment on Bloomberg's report. The White House did not respond for request to comment.

The stakes are high:

  •  This could be a multi-billion dollar contract that lasts for a decade.
  • Whichever vendor (or vendors) wins the award will also get bragging rights that the Pentagon, with all of its classified and sensitive missions and data, trusts its system.

The Pentagon has worked to allay fears over the cloud contract. Pentagon spokesperson Michelle Baldanza tells Axios that multiple vendors could work together to form one solution and win the contract together. However, Ken Glueck, Oracle's senior vice president, told me, "If you...actually know something about cloud technology, you’ll see that the draft does not reflect an open competition."

The concerns industry experts have with using just one vendor go beyond Amazon — they're about falling behind on innovation over time, vulnerabilities of a one-vendor system, the likely long-term costs to the Pentagon if one vendor gets a lock on the contract, and whether a single cloud can properly support all the Pentagon's missions.

  • "Obviously in a time of war you don’t want a single point of failure," an industry executive whose company is vying for the award said.
  • Because "the DoD is so big and has so many different unique areas of responsibility and missions...the optimal set of options would be found by awarding one contract to multiple vendors," said Trey Hodgkins, senior vice president for the public sector at the Information Technology Industry Council. The council's member companies include Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, Google, and Oracle — all of which are expected to be vying for the award.
  • But one industry executive tells Axios that the Pentagon's priority is to “make sure the department and services meet their mission requirements," and that will take precedence over any push to make the RFP friendlier to multiple-company contracts.

Up next: The Pentagon is planning to release a second draft request for proposals for the cloud competition this month, while a final RFP is expected to be released in May.

Go deeper

The hard math behind America's labor shortage

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Congressional Budget Office; Chart: Axios Visuals

Yes, the pandemic has created unusual temporary labor market dynamics. But in the bigger picture, the 2010s were a golden age for companies seeking cheap labor. The 2020s are not.

The big picture: In the 2010s, the massive millennial generation was entering the workforce, the massive baby bo0m generation was still hard at work, and there was a multi-year hangover from the deep recession caused by the global financial crisis.

Advocates fret Roe v. Wade's 49th anniversary could be its last

Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Women's March Inc

As Saturday marks the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark decision that legalized abortion access in the U.S., advocates warn the ruling is "more at risk now than ever."

The big picture: The Supreme Court in December heard a challenge to a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban that could throw Roe's survival into question, or at least narrow its scope.

Updated 13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker