Amazon has reacted angrily after the US Department of Defence confirmed that its decision to award Microsoft the JEDI cloud contract was the right one.
The Pentagon said that it had “completed its comprehensive re-evaluation of the JEDI Cloud proposals and determined that Microsoft’s proposal continues to represent the best value to the Government.”
But Amazon’s AWS said it would “continue to protest this politically corrupted contract award.”
But US defence officials believe they have made the right choice.
“The JEDI Cloud contract is a firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract that will make a full range of cloud computing services available to the DoD,” said the Pentagon.
“While contract performance will not begin immediately due to the Preliminary Injunction Order issued by the Court of Federal Claims on February 13, 2020, DoD is eager to begin delivering this capability to our men and women in uniform,” it added.
Amazon in January this year had filed a temporary restraining order with a US court to demand that Microsoft halt work on the US Department of Defense cloud contract.
Then in February a US judge granted Amazon’s request to temporarily halt the DoD and Microsoft from moving forward on the up-to-$10 billion cloud computing deal,
The bad blood stems from the Pentagon decision in October last year, when it officially awarded the JEDI contract to Microsoft, despite Amazon’s AWS cloud division being widely regarded as favourite to win the contract.
Amazon was very unhappy at what it believed was political bias from US President Donald Trump, and in November 2019 it filed a complaint with the US Court of Federal Claims contesting that decision.
AWS CEO Andy Jassy had previously said in an interview that he believed the decision was not adjudicated fairly and called for the whole Jedi decision process to be reviewed.
Amazon has essentially argued that politics got in the way of a fair contracting process, and in December 2019 Amazon officially named President Trump in its court complaint, and accused him of exerting “improper pressure” and bias.
After a US judge in February granted Amazon’s request to temporarily halt the Jedi DoD project, the Pentagon said it would reconsidered parts of its decision to award Microsoft the project.
In April this year, the US Department of Defense Office of Inspector General was unable to rule out if President Trump’s White House influenced the decision.
But now the Pentagon has concluded that Microsoft was the best value for money for the contract.
But Amazon is still seething, and in a blog post made its concerns clear.
“Earlier today, the DoD announced it had concluded its corrective action and affirmed its prior Jedi contract award to Microsoft. Taking corrective action should have provided the DoD an opportunity to address the numerous material evaluation errors outlined in our protest, ensure a fair and level playing field, and ultimately, expedite the conclusion of litigation. Unfortunately, the DoD rejected that opportunity.”
“We also remain grounded in the facts: AWS is the clear leader in cloud computing, and by any objective measure, has superior technology,” it said. “Throughout the litigation, we have grown more confident in our position as more information has come to light (some of this information has been made public, other parts not yet).”
“In February, the Court of Federal Claims stopped performance on Jedi,” it added. “The Court determined AWS’s protest had merit, and that Microsoft’s proposal likely failed to meet a key solicitation requirement and was likely deficient and ineligible for award.”
“AWS remains deeply concerned that the JEDI contract award creates a dangerous precedent that threatens the integrity of the federal procurement system and the ability of our nation’s warfighters and civil servants to access the best possible technologies,” said AWS.
“Others have raised similar concerns around a growing trend where defense officials act based on a desire to please the President, rather than do what’s right,” it added. “This was illustrated by the refusal to cooperate with the DoD Inspector General, which sought to investigate allegations that the President interfered in the Jedi procurement in order to steer the award away from AWS.”
AWS then made a serious allegation that the White House was covering up communications over the Jedi project.
“Instead of cooperating, the White House exerted a ‘presidential communications privilege’ that resulted in senior DoD officials not answering questions about Jedi communications between the White House and DoD,” Amazon add. “This begs the question, what do they have to hide?
“There is a recurring pattern to the way President Trump behaves when he’s called out for doing something egregious: first he denies doing it, then he looks for ways to push it off to the side, to distract attention from it and delay efforts to investigate it (so people get bored and forget about it),” AWS wrote. “And then he ends up doubling down on the egregious act anyway.”
“On Jedi, President Trump reportedly ordered former Secretary Mattis to “screw’” Amazon, blatantly interfered in an active procurement, directed his subordinate to conduct an unorthodox “review” prior to a contract award announcement and then stonewalled an investigation into his own political interference,” it added.
“We strongly disagree with the DoD’s flawed evaluation and 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,” said AWS.
“The question we continue to ask ourselves is whether the President of the United States should be allowed to use the budget of the Department of Defense to pursue his own personal and political ends?”it concluded. “Throughout our protest, we’ve been clear that we won’t allow blatant political interference, or inferior technology, to become an acceptable standard. Although these are not easy decisions to make, and we do not take them lightly, we will not back down in the face of targeted political cronyism or illusory corrective actions, and we will continue pursuing a fair, objective, and impartial review.”
Whatever the eventual outcome of this project, it is fair to say that the Jedi contract was blighted by a highly acrimonious bidding process, right from the start.
In July 2019 President Donald Trump said that he was “looking very seriously” at the Pentagon cloud contract, and that it should be investigated.
The President said he would direct aides to investigate the pending military contract, saying he had heard multiple complaints about an allegedly unfair bidding process.
The project was then briefly placed on hold, until Defense Secretary Mark Esper could ‘review’ the program.
In the end, there were only two bidders for the contract, namely Amazon and Microsoft, with Azure being the eventually winner.
AWS had been considered the clear favourite to win the contract, as AWS already provided some cloud services to the DoD, and in 2013 won a $600m cloud contract with the CIA.
A book by the speech writer for former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis alleged that Trump had asked Mattis in the summer of 2018 to “screw Amazon” out of a chance to bid on the contract.
Mattis apparently declined.
The Department of Defense for its part has always said that the acquisition process “was conducted in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.”