November 18, 2019
It looked as though Amazon might not act — but it has.
In the ongoing saga over the Department of Defense’s $10 billion, 10-year Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud computing contract, Amazon Web Services has at last gone public with its intent to challenge the project that went to Microsoft.
Observers had speculated AWS might not register its official protest for fear of harming any future deals with DoD.
But AWS late last week filed a notice with the federal claims court that indicates otherwise; and, as it turns out, the cloud behemoth agrees with industry conjecture that President Donald Trump had something to do with AWS losing to Microsoft.
Analysts and insiders have been saying that Trump influenced the outcome. Trump has a well-known beef with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post. The Post has been critical of Trump and his policies; Trump, for his part, has railed about the coverage on social media and via other outlets, calling The Post “fake news.”
In a video obtained by Federal Times, AWS CEO Andy Jassy says during a company meeting that White House pressure interfered with the contract’s proceedings.
“I think when you have a sitting president who’s willing to publicly show his disdain for a company and the leader of a company, it’s very difficult for government agencies including the DoD to make an objective decision without fear of reprisal,” Jassy said, according to Federal Times.
Amazon delivered a follow-up statement to myriad publications that reflected those sentiments.
“AWS is uniquely experienced and qualified to provide the critical technology the U.S. military needs, and remains committed to supporting the DoD’s modernization efforts,” an Amazon spokesman said, according to MarketWatch. “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. 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.”
Amazon may have an uphill battle ahead of it. On Friday, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said during a news conference in Seoul that he did not think bias affected Microsoft securing JEDI.
“I am confident [the process] was conducted freely and fairly, without any type of outside influence,” Esper said, according to Reuters.
Esper added that he had recused himself from the group of JEDI decision-makers. The Pentagon made the announcement in October because Esper’s son, Luke Thomas Esper, works for IBM, one of the original contract bidders.
“Out of an abundance of caution to avoid any concerns regarding his impartiality, Secretary Esper has delegated decision-making concerning the JEDI cloud program to Deputy Secretary [David] Norquist,” Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Jonathan Rath Hoffman said in an Oct. 22 statement to DefenseOne. “The JEDI procurement will continue to move to selection through the normal acquisition process run by career acquisition professionals.”
Amazon isn’t the only one-time JEDI contender protesting the award of the project to Microsoft. Oracle, too, is in court over the matter. The company alleges that the JEDI contract broke federal procurement laws by only naming and using one vendor, and that the contract unfairly favored AWS from the beginning.
Industry observers had considered AWS the front-runner for JEDI, in part because the company, which is the world’s largest cloud computing vendor, build cloud services for the Central Intelligence Agency.
Oracle also told the federal court it now meets the JEDI’s minimum requirements, presumably in hopes of having another chance at the project should a judge rule that DoD needs to put JEDI back out for bid.
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