Pentagon, Microsoft get cracking on JEDI cloud work despite lawsuits

With Jacqueline Feldscher, Wesley Morgan and Connor O’Brien

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— The Pentagon and Microsoft, despite two lawsuits, are getting to work on JEDI.

— The Army weighs restoring a soldier’s Special Forces tab and valor award after President Donald Trump’s pardon.

— Defense contractors and lawmakers may have heartburn over the Air Force’s new fighter jet plan.

HAPPY WEDNESDAY AND WELCOME TO MORNING DEFENSE, where we’re always on the lookout for tips, pitches and feedback. Email us at, and follow on Twitter @dave_brown24, @morningdefense and @politicopro.

IT’S OFF TO WORK WE GO: Even as Oracle and Amazon are taking the Pentagon to court over its pick to manage its cloud computing contract, the Defense Department and Microsoft are rolling up their sleeves and getting to work on the program, our own Jacqueline Feldscher writes.

“The sooner they get started, the sooner they start earning profit,” said Tom Spoehr, the director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense. “It could be months before the various cases are adjudicated. And Microsoft immediately starts to learn more about the operating environment and the government’s requirements.”

“If the courts rule against the Pentagon in either case and force it to restart the competition, Microsoft’s work on the program ‘would essentially be lost effort,’ Spoehr said. ‘It does not make it harder to undo, unless it progresses to the point where the DoD starts to virtualize its applications to reside in a Microsoft proprietary cloud.’”

NOW IT’S THE ARMY’S TURN: You’ve heard all about Navy Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher’s SEAL trident. Now the Army is dealing with its own issue: Maj. Mathew Golsteyn’s Special Forces tab, CNBC reports.

Golsteyn was awaiting trial on war crimes charges when he was pardoned by Trump. The Green Beret had been stripped of his Special Forces tab and a Silver Star, and the Army is now weighing restoring those honors.

“What we’re trying to really focus on is to go through deliberative processes to make the appropriate-level judgments and get our soldiers through the various transitions,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said.

Here’s what Military Times wrote about the case last week: “President Donald Trump issued a full pardon last week to Golsteyn, who was set to stand trial this winter for allegedly murdering a suspected Afghan bomb-maker. But that pardon doesn’t necessarily mean his military record will be made whole, as the administrative processes that revoked his tab and medal were separate from the judicial process for which he was about to face trial.”

Related: “Senators challenge Trump on military pardons,” via The Hill.

Plus: “Trump defends military pardons over objections from ‘deep state’ at Florida rally,” via CNN.

WARREN’S QUESTIONS: Congress wants answers as to whether U.S. military vehicles sold to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates wound up in the hands of terrorists. But the State Department says those two countries aren’t being much help, our colleague Bryan Bender writes.

State and Defense Department teams visited the UAE in September and another is going to Saudi Arabia this month, a State official told Sen. Elizabeth Warren in a Nov. 19 letter that Warren’s office made public Tuesday.

“This engagement process and continued insufficient responses by the governments have prolonged the investigation into the matter,” State official Mary Elizabeth Taylor wrote.

UKRAINE TIMELINE: “House Democrats on Tuesday accused the White House budget office of ‘a pattern of abuse’ in halting $400 million in crucial aid to Ukraine this summer, as Democrats released a timeline of executive actions that they say ran afoul of congressional spending powers,” per POLITICO’s Caitlin Emma.

“House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth and House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey said they’re now considering unspecified ‘legislative proposals and reforms’ to rein in the OMB’s ability to slow or limit the flow of foreign assistance appropriated by Congress, known as apportionment.

“The summary says that the OMB’s ‘unlawful’ actions ‘suggest a pattern of abuse’ by the agency. ‘Although the committees only received a partial production of the requested materials, OMB’s responses and documentation to date confirm that the apportionment process has been misused to withhold Congressionally enacted appropriations,’ Democrats said.”

Budget aides resigned: “Two White House budget officials resigned in part out of frustration with President Donald Trump’s order to freeze U.S. military assistance to Ukraine, a senior budget official told House impeachment investigators,” POLITICO’s Caitlin Emma and Andrew Desiderio report.

“Mark Sandy, whose closed-door deposition transcript was released Tuesday, said the initial concerns about the hold on military aid caused at least two officials within the Office of Management and Budget to resign. … Sandy was the only OMB official to testify as part of the inquiry.”

MORE JETS: The Air Force’s top buyer is warning that the service’s preference for fielding a greater variety of jets may be a tough sell for industry and lawmakers, our colleague Wesley Morgan writes.

“I don’t think that one and only one airplane can be our future. I don’t think we can bank on that,” said Will Roper, adding that the new approach needs to start with the Air Force’s sixth-generation fighter. “We need to build, baby, build.” The emphasis, he said, must be on digital design that would allow planes to be built “with a much smaller, less skilled workforce.”

Lawmakers will worry about which congressional districts will build the planes, while contractors will have concerns about sharing the designs among firms, he said.

QUESTIONS FOR COASTIES: Lawmakers from the House Transporation Committee are questioning a Department of Homeland Security decision to keep going on a contract with Eastern Shipbuilding Group to build offshore patrol cutters even after the shipyard was damaged by Hurricane Michael, writes POLITICO’s Sam Mintz.

“DHS is now proposing to expand the timeframes for the delivery of the first four cutters and spend an additional $659 million on the cutters. In the letter sent this week, the committee leaders questioned DHS’ decision to keep the contract instead of pivoting to another contractor that can execute it.”

BIDEN’S PITCH: Joe Biden’s campaign has launched a 30-second ad in Iowa making the case that the former VP is best positioned to be commander in chief, per our friends at POLITICO Playbook.

“To be commander in chief of the United States, it’s a sacred duty,” Biden says in the ad. “The next president’s going to face enormous challenges of picking up the pieces of American foreign policy. We need a leader who can, on Day One, stand with our allies, know them by their first names, and have them know there will be no question about the word of the next president of the United States.”

CELEBRATING CARRIERS: November is Aircraft Carrier Month. Be sure to check out the Twitter hashtag #aircraftcarriermonth for photos and videos, and if you’re so inclined, add your own.

Why November? Here’s an explainer.

— Top U.S. general arrives in Iraq amid protests, questions over Iran’s influence: Reuters

— Russia shows its latest weapon to U.S. inspectors: The Associated Press

— Column: We trust the Navy SEALs to protect America. Trump should trust them to judge themselves: Time

— Former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. James Holloway dies at age 97: Seapower Magazine

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