On Monday, I reported that the U.S. State Department was signing a $16.5 million agreement with Amazon to provide Kindles, content and service for overseas English language programs. Yesterday I was able to get on the phone with State spokesman Philippe Reines, who explained more about how the program will work and clarified some things that aren’t included in the available public documents. Some questions remain unanswered, and I’ve listed those at the end of this post.
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Nothing is signed yet
First off, the State Department hasn’t yet signed a contract with Amazon. This document, Reines told me, is a request for proposal (RFP), though a reader points out that it is not labeled as such in the database — rather, it’s labeled as a Justification & Approval (J&A), intended to explain why this is a sole-source contract. I’m referring to it as a J&A throughout this piece. “At this point the ball is in Amazon’s court to come back with a proposal to us based on the request we gave them,” he said.
“We basically said, ‘We’d like your proposal to reflect the possibility of it being a five-year deal, with the total amount spent over this five years as $16.5 million,’” Reines said. He says “that’s not an expression by State of an intent to spend all that money and certainly not an obligation to spend all that money.”