Amazon asks federal court to stop work on JEDI Cloud contract

Amazon Web Services has asked a federal judge to block the Defense Department and Microsoft from getting to work on the Pentagon’s multibillion dollar JEDI Cloud contract.

In a motion to the Court of Federal Claims late Wednesday, AWS requested both a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to stop work on JEDI.

DoD has previously indicated it intended to issue its first task order to Microsoft on Feb. 11., and has also said it expected to make the unclassified portions of the long-awaited JEDI Cloud available to Defense users in the same month.

Amazon’s court filing was made under seal, so the contents of the filing — and the precise arguments it is making as to why the work must be stopped — are known only to the judge and the litigants in the case.

In a press statement Wednesday night responding to questions about why it requested the stay, AWS restated its rationale for why it filed the lawsuit without adding specific details about why the company believes  initial work should be halted.

“It’s important that the numerous evaluation errors and blatant political interference that impacted the JEDI award decision be reviewed,” the company said. “AWS is absolutely committed to supporting the DoD’s modernization efforts and to an expeditious legal process that resolves this matter as quickly as possible.”

But the move came as little surprise: in an earlier filing to the court, AWS and the government filed a joint briefing that anticipated the new stop-work request from Amazon, while also asking Judge Patricia E. Campbell-Smith to resolve the matter expeditiously. Both parties have asked the court to make a decision on the restraining order before Feb. 11.

Amazon is protesting the Pentagon’s Oct. 25 decision to award the up-to-$10 billion contract to Microsoft — a procurement in which AWS was long-seen as the likely favorite. Indeed, a separate lawsuit now pending in the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit asserts that Defense officials improperly tailored the procurement in ways that improperly favored AWS.

Amazon made its first moves to challenge the contract in federal court on Nov. 14. Unlike bid protests at the Government Accountability Office, stays are not automatic when losing bidders challenge contracts at the Court of Federal Claims, and a judge must specifically issue an injunction or restraining order to stop work on a contested contract while the legal challenge unfolds.

To get such an order, federal court rules generally require a challenger to show that they would suffer “irreparable injury” if the government moved forward with the contract.

But Amazon has not done so until now, and the government has already signaled that it plans to challenge the restraining order request on that basis.

“In agreeing to the above schedule for briefing of AWS’s intended motion for temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction, [the government and Microsoft] expressly reserve their right to object to the timeliness of AWS’s proposed motion,” attorneys wrote in a court filing earlier this month.