Tags: amazon | influence | dc | swamp | military | cloud | computing

Amazon-Sized Influence Being Flexed In DC Swamp

Amazon-Sized Influence Being Flexed In DC Swamp
(Jakub Jirsak/Dreamstime)

By    |   Monday, 16 July 2018 03:29 PM

It’s not yet known where Amazon.com will place its second headquarters. However, it’s no coincidence that three of the final 20 contenders are in the Washington, D.C. area. That would pump billions into that economy, which is already booming.

Bringing jobs to “the swamp” would be a great way to increase the power and sway that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos already enjoys. And increasing his influence is something Bezos is very focused on these days.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Amazon now has close to 100 lobbyists working in D.C., and that the company spends some $13 million each year on lobbying. That’s five times higher than just five years ago. Amazon has a bigger operation than Walmart, its retail competitor, or Exxon, a company known for its sway in Congress.

Along the way, Bezos dropped $250 million to buy the influential Washington Post, which will help ensure he enjoys good press coverage. And he’s remodeling a mansion in D.C.

He plans to use the large house to entertain the capital’s powerful and important citizens. “They’ll really use it [the mansion] as a magnet of smart, interesting people from all walks,” his friend Jean Case explains about his plans. She and her husband, who founded America Online, will presumably be on the guest list fairly frequently.

But so will powerbrokers such as Defense Secretary James Mattis. The Pentagon admitted to Washingtonian magazine that the secretary “receives individual advice from Bezos from time to time.” Mattis also visited the Amazon founder in Seattle just last year.

It may not be coincidence that Amazon is in the running for a massive, no-bid defense contract. “We anticipate this will be a multibillion-dollar contract,” Chief Management Officer Jay Gibson told Bloomberg this year.

There are real problems with the deal beyond just the scent of cronyism.

For example, Amazon does business in China, and has been forced by the Chinese government to sell important computing equipment to a Chinese company. That means the government in Beijing could have the keys to Amazon’s web security systems. Americans are just beginning to become aware of the size and scope of Chinese hacking.

As the Wall Street Journal reported last year, “In August, AWS was caught up in a Chinese government clampdown on tools that allow internet users to circumvent the country’s vast system of internet filters. In that instance, AWS customers were sent emails by Beijing Sinnet asking them to delete tools enabling them to bypass the filters. Some of the tools that clients use include virtual private networks, or VPNs.”

But the cronyism is a bigger concern, and it can’t be ignored. Especially since the details of the contract would give the winning company (still expected to be Amazon Web Services) an advantage that could last more than a decade.

“Roger Waldron, president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, which represents defense contractors including Oracle, IBM and Microsoft, said ‘going to a single vendor closes the market to just that vendor for a decade,’” Bloomberg reported. Microsoft and IBM were also in the running, and criticized the Defense Department’s one-provider decision.

But while the decision was delayed, the plan wasn’t cancelled. The Pentagon still intends to give a single company control of all its cloud services. Amazon is still expected to be that company. It’s big in Washington, and getting bigger.

Regardless of whether this particular deal goes through, “Amazon’s cloud-computing business with the U.S. government is expected to grow to $2.8 billion in 2018 and $4.6 billion in 2019, up from less than $300 million in 2015,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “Roughly 10% of the revenue and profits for the unit come from those government contracts.”

It helps to have friends in high places. But Americans shouldn’t stand by and allow Amazon to vacuum up the military’s entire cloud computing business. It is dangerous. And it simply isn’t fair.

Andrea Kaye is host of the nationally recognized Andrea Kaye Show, heard on KCBQ 1170 AM The Answer in San Diego California. Find out more at andreakayeshow.com.

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It helps to have friends in high places. But Americans shouldn’t stand by and allow Amazon to vacuum up the military’s entire cloud computing business. It is dangerous. And it simply isn’t fair.
amazon, influence, dc, swamp, military, cloud, computing
Monday, 16 July 2018 03:29 PM
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