The Department of Defense is about to sign a multimillion dollar contract with Amazon, the famous e-commerce giant founded by Donald Trump’s bitter enemy, Jeff Bezos. This contract is included in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2018, currently under discussion in Congress and reported by Mintpress News. If the law setting the Pentagon’s budget is approved, Amazon will indeed become the Department of Defense’s main service provider and could take in $53 billion. The contract, located in the section of the law titled “Procurement Through Commercial E-Commerce Portals,” calls for the procurement through a tender calling of a whole range of goods (software, office supplies) from "e-commerce" portals, of which Amazon is the leader.
A Gift to Amazon
Even if members of Congress (among them Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry, the law’s sponsor) have declared that there will be healthy “competition” among these portals, the profits that Amazon will collect are undeniable. According to the Coalition for Government Procurement, only two U.S. companies have the prerequisites to participate in the Department of Defense’s call for tender, given the standards specified in the law’s current draft.* This could determine the monopoly in this division of Amazon, which already represents 43 percent of all online retail sales in the United States, the point being that this tender call was tailor-made for the Seattle company – the outcome of an intense lobbying campaign. These are regulated but perfectly legal in the United States.
Jezz Befos’s** Lobbying Activity
That the draft law tends to favor Amazon is not surprising, given the millions of dollars that Bezos’ company has funneled to Rep. Thornberry and other members of Congress in recent years. According to Open Secrets, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington that monitors lobbying activity in the United States, Amazon designated $9.66 million in 2017 alone for lobbying activity, with the aim of influencing congressional decision-making. With such a figure, it stands to surpass multinationals like Dow Chemical Co. and ExxonMobil Corp. According to TwinLogic Strategies, one of the lobbying companies hired by Amazon this year, the behemoth explicitly pressured Congress in the second and third quarters of the 2017 fiscal year.
Contracts with the CIA
The CIA has entrusted Bezos’s company to build a private cloud for its offices. According to the contract signed in 2013, Amazon provides the U.S. intelligence agency with the technology to build a specialized cloud to store quantities of data previously unimaginable. In January, Amazon won another contract with U.S. Communities, a consortium of more than 90,000 local governments, in which it became the major provider of COTS hardware and software.*** In March, other federal agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security, reinforced their relationship with Amazon for $450 million a year.
That Friendship with James Mattis
Though relations between President Trump and Bezos are certainly not idyllic, the Amazon CEO enjoys the respect of Secretary of Defense James Mattis so much that, in 2016, he joined an advisory board at the Pentagon. Furthermore, in August of this year, Bezos welcomed Mattis on an official visit to Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle.
Bezos, who supported Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign, also plays a key role in the media: He is an editor and owner of The Washington Post, by way of Nash Holdings, LLC. It is the most widely read daily newspaper in the United States, as well as one of the newspapers most critical of President Trump. Recently, the CEO of Amazon overtook Bill Gates in the Forbes ranking of billionaires. Bezos is the world’s richest man, with a fortune of $92.3 billion; almost $2 billion more than the CEO of Microsoft’s $90.8 billion. And aside from money, Bezos seems to have amassed incalculable power over the last few years.
*Editor’s note: Calls for tenders are procedures applied to generate offers from companies competing for works, supply or service contracts in the framework of public procurement.
**Editor’s note: It is unclear whether the author intentionally misspelled Jeff Bezos’ name.
***Editor’s note: COTS is short for commercial-off-the-shelf, an adjective that describes software or hardware products that are ready-made and available for sale to the general public.
Translator’s note: For readers seeking further information on this subject, please see the original article, which contains numerous sources linked to English-language websites.