Re: Not Surprised
Preach it, brother - been there too. Sometimes the trick is even used for good. In a field of say, a few vendors, often one will be a standout in terms of delivering on time, in budget, and working correctly, while the others aren't as good and/or merely have more aggressive liars (marketing) or as in this case shysters. A good contracting officer will arrange things so the right choice is made - that's what they're best at.
Now, they often don't know the tech that well - in this case if the government had a surplus of competent IT people we would not be here talking about this at all - it'd be done in house. However, and especially at the upper levels, government is populated by people who value humdrum job security above all else, not the types to want to get into complex issues or disruption or boat-rocking.
Thus it's often perfectly legitimate that they contact the potential vendors and find out about the tech they think they want, and get educated so they can write that selective RFP better. While sometimes there is corruption (as in all other things) - it's also useful to educate them on what's reasonable to ask for - and to plan for in the field. Also, that vendor's performance in other contracts and similar cases - in this case Amazon's work for classified info for other entities, and the fact that militaries actually run on logistics far more than most realize - strategy and tactics are secondary to having the right amount of stuff brought to the party - the choice is kind of obvious. Who is obviously best at logistics right now?
Of course, status at work is also important to government contract officers, there's more to it than actual competence and results, but you get the idea.
I happen to think this single point of failure is a really bad idea...it'll be one heck of a target for an adversary. But as is, you have tons of points of almost as bad failures - far too many leaky colonels with laptops that have creds for more than one database or information function - to phish, also bad. Hard to call that one.