Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee in a chamber controlled by Democrats, wants the Defense Department Office of Inspector General (DOD OIG) to reopen a previous investigation after claiming that a former DoD official, Sally Donnelly, did not disclose a potential conflict of interest to the previous investigators during an ethics probe involving the contract.
The inspector general published its final report on April 13, 2020, which said, “We determined that Ms. Donnelly did not violate any ethical agreements and obligations regarding Office of Government Ethics financial disclosures, [and] did not give preferential treatment to Amazon officials or restrict access to [Defense] Secretary [James] Mattis for other industry leaders.”
Grassley says Donnelly did not disclose to the DOD OIG exactly who purchased her consulting firm just prior to beginning her employment at the DOD, which he argues was relevant to the DOD OIG’s investigation and could have affected its findings.
Grassley wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and the DOD Inspector General Sean O’Donnell on October 24, 2022, asking them to reopen the investigation.
"The American people must have confidence that their government isn’t plagued by conflicts of interest and that the decisions made by government officials are done for the people and their best interests, not the financial interests of government officials," Grassley wrote.
Grassley previously laid out his evidence in an Oct. 24, 2022 letter, which Breitbart News summarized:
Just before entering the DOD in 2017, Donnelly sold her consulting firm SBD Advisors, according to her publicly available financial disclosure forms. However, Donnelly never revealed on her forms or in public reporting exactly who had purchased her firm. According to Grassley, Donnelly never told the DOD OIG who purchased her firm either.
After pressing the DOD OIG for the Purchase and Sale Agreement for Donnelly’s company, Grassley found that the DOD OIG only had a copy with the identity of the purchaser’s name redacted, and that the DOD OIG had argued to him that the identity of the purchaser was not relevant to their investigation. Grassley said he finally obtained an unredacted copy of the Purchase and Sale Agreement in October 2022 — long after the DOD OIG ended its investigation — which revealed that an entity named VMAP Investor, LLC (VMAP) had purchased her firm. The “AP” in VMAP are the initials of its part-owner, Andre Pienaar.
The Iowa Republican is arguing that information would certainly have been important to the DOD OIG's initial probe. That's because Pienaar isn't just the CEO and founder of C5 Capital, a client of Donnelly's, but at the time he was dating and later married the Amazon Web Services executive who was in charge of the company's bid at the time to obtain the lucrative contract -- Teresa Carlson.
During her employment at DOD, Grassley said that VMAP made a number of $390,000 payments to Donnelly for the purchase of her company.
“Knowledge of the entity that purchased her firm is relevant and central to the question of whether a conflict of interest existed and could have substantively affected the protocols required to wall off Sally Donnelly from potential and actual conflicts of interest while employed at DoD," wrote Grassley. "Based on information collected for this investigation, the DoD OIG’s conclusion concerning Ms. Donnelly’s lack of financial connection to C5 appears to be inaccurate. Indeed, two senior C5 officials, including the founder of C5 Capital, were involved in the purchase of SBD Advisors LLC–connections that existed while Donnelly was at DoD and received payments from the sale of her company."
This is all in relation to a contract for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or more commonly by its acronym, JEDI, which was announced officially in the fall of 2017, during then-President Donald Trump's first year in office. The program sought to move the gargantuan amount of data possessed by the DOD to a single cloud, and as massive as the project would be, proponents said, it would "allow the Pentagon to be able to share and analyze data more quickly, and give warfighters on the ground more information about incoming threats at greater speed," according to Breitbart News. Critics, however, countered that the Pentagon's information should be spread out over several clouds and not be limited to one that could be vulnerable.
At $10 billion, the project was extremely lucrative. But shortly after companies began making bids, it became apparent that the DOD appeared to be fashioning the program around Amazon.
"Amazon had already secured a contract in 2013 to provide cloud services to the CIA, and if the tech giant also procured the DOD contract, it stood to gain a significant edge in the cloud computing and services industry," Breitbart News reported. After the Pentagon announced in September 2017 it would go with Amazon, other companies that had bid on the project -- Microsoft and Oracle -- filed complaints.
But in the end, Donnelly was cleared and is now back at work in the Pentagon under the Biden regime; the DOD canceled the JEDI project in July 2021.