Two Democratic senators question Pentagon delay on cloud contract

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two Democratic senators asked U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Monday if "outside" influence caused him to delay awarding a $10 billion cloud computing contract, after President Donald Trump suggested Inc AMZN.O should not win it.

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The contract, called the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure Cloud, or JEDI, is part of a broad modernization of the Pentagon’s information technology systems.

Democratic Senators Mark Warner and Jack Reed asked Esper in a letter why the Defense Department was reviewing the contract and if Esper was directed by someone outside of the Pentagon to delay or cancel the contract, which was in final talks with Amazon Web Services. The senators publicly released a copy of the letter.

Trump in July said his administration was examining Amazon’s bid following complaints from other tech companies.

Warner had raised his concerns about the decision to put a hold on the contract in a tweet on Friday, saying that “for the President to use the power of his office to punish critics in the media would be a complete abuse of power.”

Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, also owns the Washington Post, which Trump has repeatedly accused of unfair coverage.

The request from the two senators comes the same day that Democratic Senator Ron Wyden asked Bezos if Amazon Web Services "may have contributed to" a recent massive data breach of Capital One Financial Corp's COF.N servers.

Wyden suggested a default server setting in Amazon’s cloud computing products could have been exploited in recent hacks, citing cybersecurity experts, and asked Bezos how those attacks could be “identified and mitigated.”

Amazon did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Wyden joins Republican members of the U.S House of Representatives Oversight Committee who asked Amazon on Thursday to be briefed about the company’s security protocols in light of the breach.

Reporting by Bryan Pietsch; Editing by Leslie Adler