WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper recused himself from reviewing a controversial $10 billion cloud-computing contract because his son works for one of the contract’s original bidders, the Defense Department said on Tuesday.
The decision removes Mr. Esper from a fierce lobbying battle between Amazon Web Services, the dominant player in the field of cloud computing, and Oracle. President Trump himself has weighed in over the 10-year contract to transform the military’s computing systems, making clear his own hostility toward Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos.
“Out of an abundance of caution to avoid any concerns regarding his impartiality,” the defense secretary has delegated decision-making concerning the contract, known as JEDI, to the deputy defense secretary, David L. Norquist, a Pentagon spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, said in a statement.
The statement attributed the recusal to Mr. Esper’s “adult son’s employment with one of the original contract applicants,” but did not specify the company. The statement also did not identify the adult son by name, but the LinkedIn page for Mr. Esper’s son Luke Esper describes him as a digital strategy consultant at IBM, which was an original bidder for the contract.
What began as a technological competition to remake the military’s aging, often incompatible computer systems took on political overtones in recent months.
Experts had believed the contract for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, known by the acronym JEDI, would go to Amazon. But in August, shortly after taking over as defense secretary, Mr. Esper said the contract would not be awarded until he reviewed the matter. That announcement came just two weeks after Mr. Trump said he would be looking “very seriously” at the contract process.
Mr. Trump said at the time that he was receiving “tremendous complaints” from competitors of Amazon Web Services. The president has made no secret of his dislike of Mr. Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post. When angered by the paper’s coverage, Mr. Trump often refers to it on Twitter as the “Amazon Washington Post.”
In public and private, Mr. Trump has questioned why Mr. Bezos should profit from one of the biggest leaps in Pentagon technology in decades.