The Defense Department has followed through on its promise to a federal judge to quickly reopen bidding on one of the contested portions of its JEDI Cloud contract. But the latest chapter in the JEDI saga is already proving to be just as acrimonious as the past two-and-a-half years have been.
This week, Amazon Web Services filed a brand new protest, challenging the way DoD has handled that very reconsideration process. AWS alleges the new revisions the department made to its JEDI solicitation were “ambiguous,” and make it impossible for the company to accurately price its revised bid.
“AWS repeatedly sought clarity from the DoD around ambiguous aspects of the amended solicitation and the DoD refused to answer our questions,” the company said in a statement Thursday. “We simply want to ensure a common understanding of the DoD’s requirements and eliminate ambiguity that could impact a fair evaluation.”
Amazon issued its latest complaint in the form of an agency-level protest — essentially a request for the Defense Department to reconsider its own actions. The details of those types of protests are not publicly available.
But the company said it had repeatedly pressed Defense contracting officials to clarify their amended JEDI solicitation, and that the department refused to provide a meaningful response.
The revisions the Pentagon is making are relatively minor in the grand scheme of the multibillion-dollar contract, and deal mainly with a part of the procurement that a federal judge has already flagged as improper. The portions at issue – known as “Price Scenario 6” – deal with alleged irregularities in how the department evaluated AWS and Microsoft’s initial respective bids for data storage in the cloud.
In court, Amazon had been pressing for an order that would require DoD to conduct a much broader re-evaluation of the bids, including all six of the evaluation factors the Pentagon used to pick a winner. But Judge Patricia E. Campbell-Smith said DoD is entitled to conduct the corrective action in whatever way it chooses; if AWS feels the new competition was still unfair or illegal, it’s free to continue to press its claims in court.
It its own statement, Microsoft charged Amazon was asking for a “do-over” because it bid too high a price to win the contract.
“We don’t know the content of Amazon’s complaint, as it avoids the public scrutiny of a court filing. But we do know that the changes DoD has made based on the judge’s ruling do not allow Amazon to undo its earlier business decision to bid high, which resulted in their loss,” Frank Shaw, the company’s top spokesman wrote in a blog post. “It does not allow Amazon to completely re-do its pricing, especially now that it knows Microsoft’s price and has a target to shoot at.”
Amazon published a similar blog posting in response the following day.
The Pentagon did immediately respond to requests for details about the current timeline for its JEDI reconsideration process.
“DoD continues to execute the procedures outlined in the motion for voluntary remand granted last month with the intent of delivering this critically-needed capability to our warfighters as quickly as possible,” Lt. Col. Robert Carver, a Defense spokesman, said in a statement.
Under the current court order, DoD has until August 17 to evaluate the two companies’ revised bids, though that order could be extended if the process needs more time. Judge Campbell-Smith also told DoD, AWS and Microsoft to file progress reports every 60 days, starting on June 16.
JEDI has been mired in legal protests and industry criticism since its inception in 2018. Back then, most vendors — except for AWS — were publicly pleading with the Pentagon to structure JEDI as a multiple-vendor arrangement.
A separate bid protest lawsuit, filed by Oracle, contends that DoD violated procurement laws by structuring the JEDI as a single-award contract. The Court of Federal Claims partially agreed with Oracle, but dismissed the lawsuit on technical grounds.
However, Oracle’s protest is still alive: the company has appealed the lower court’s ruling, and lawyers for DoD, Oracle, and Amazon are scheduled to argue that case before the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on June 5.