Amazon to protest DoD’s JEDI Cloud contract

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story indicated that Amazon had already filed its bid protest with the Court of Federal Claims. The company later clarified that it has only submitted a notification of its intent to sue. 

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Amazon Web Services said Thursday it will file a lawsuit at the Court of Federal Claims challenging the Defense Department’s decision to award its multibillion-dollar JEDI Cloud contract to rival Microsoft.

AWS was long believed to be the favorite throughout the course of the lengthy and contentious procurement process. But the Pentagon announced on Oct. 25 that it had chosen Microsoft instead.

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In deciding to lodge the challenge, which was first reported by Federal Times, Amazon reasoned it was “uniquely experienced” to deliver cloud technology to the military.

“We also believe it’s critical for our country that the government and its elected leaders administer procurements objectively and in a manner that is free from political influence,” an AWS spokesman said an in emailed statement to Federal News Network. “Numerous aspects of the JEDI evaluation process contained clear deficiencies, errors, and unmistakable bias — and it’s important that these matters be examined and rectified.”

The insinuation of political influence appeared to be a reference to comments President Trump has made about the JEDI contract. The president, who has a running feud with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, told reporters in July that he was “getting tremendous complaints about the contract with the Pentagon and with Amazon … They’re saying it wasn’t competitively bid. We’re looking at it very seriously.”

Some members of Congress had also asked the White House to intervene in the JEDI acquisition process, while others had urged the administration to leave the procurement to acquisition professionals.

But after the contract award, Defense officials were insistent that the final decision was not — and could not have been — subject to political interference.

Dana Deasy, the Pentagon’s chief information officer told the Senate Armed Services Committee during an Oct. 29 hearing that the identities of the JEDI source selection team were kept secret during deliberations, and no one attempted to contact any of the members to sway their decision.

“In my discussions with the deputy secretary of Defense and the secretary of Defense, at no time throughout this process have I ever shared any proprietary source information with them, nor have I ever divulged — when we got to the conclusion — who the awardee was,” he said.

An AWS official said the company provided formal notice to the Department of Justice, DoD, Microsoft, and the Court of Federal Claims that it intended to protest the contract last Friday, but could not provide a timeline as to when an actual complaint would be filed with the court.

No suit had been filed as of Thursday afternoon, according to the court’s electronic records system. Asked for comment on the AWS announcement on Thursday, the Pentagon said only that it would not speculate on potential litigation.

The contract has a theoretical value of up to $10 billion and could last for as long as 10 years if the Pentagon exercises all of its options. However, when the department awarded the contract last month, it said it anticipated that it would only award Microsoft $210 million in task orders during the initial two-year base period.

Amazon’s suit would become the second piece of litigation challenging the JEDI procurement in federal courts. Oracle, which was excluded from the competition under what it says were overly-restrictive gate criteria, has a case pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Ironically, Oracle’s legal challenge is based, at least in part, on allegations that the Pentagon structured JEDI in ways that favored AWS and that DoD employees with ties to the company introduced serious conflicts of interest into the procurement process. The Defense Department’s inspector general is probing those allegations, some of which the department has already acknowledged  may have crossed ethical lines.

Oracle also alleges that DoD violated procurement law by structuring JEDI as a winner-take-all single-award contract, an approach that it says only AWS favored.

“DoD, accordingly, wrongfully deprived Oracle of the opportunity to compete under a multiple-award solicitation — a prejudicial injury,” company attorneys wrote in their appeal.

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