Judge Refuses To Dismiss AWS Claim Of Trump JEDI Interference

The court room battles continues over the Pentagon’s controversial decision to award its lucrative JEDI contract to Microsoft.

Both Microsoft and the US Department of Justice (DoJ) this week suffered a setback when the US Court of Federal Claims issued a sealed decision denying the motions filed by Microsoft and DoJ, requesting the Court dismiss AWS’s allegations that the Trump Administration interfered in the JEDI award.

All this stems from when the Pentagon decided in October 2019 to award the JEDI contract to Microsoft, despite Amazon’s AWS cloud division being widely regarded as favourite to win the contract.

Controversial award

Amazon was very unhappy at what it believed was political bias from former US President Donald Trump, and in November 2019 it filed an official complaint with the US Court of Federal Claims contesting that decision.

AWS CEO Andy Jassy (soon to be Amazon CEO) had previously said he believed the decision was not adjudicated fairly and called for the whole JEDI decision process to be reviewed.

But with no signs of movement, Amazon in January 2020 filed a temporary restraining order with a US court to demand that Microsoft halt work on the US Department of Defense cloud contract.

In February 2020 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.

Trump interference

Essentially Amazon has 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.

Amazon felt the Pentagon decision was politically motivated by President Trump’s dislike of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and the Washington Post, which Bezos owns.

After a US judge in February 2020 granted Amazon’s request to temporarily halt the JEDI project, the Pentagon said it would reconsider parts of its decision to award Microsoft the project.

In April 2020, the US Department of Defense Office of Inspector General said it was unable to rule out if President Trump’s White House influenced the decision.

But in September 2020 the Pentagon concluded that Microsoft had been the best value for money for the contract.

AWS response

However the court case continues, and now the US Court of Federal Claims has denied the DoJ and Microsoft attempt to throw out the legal challenge.

An AWS spokesperson told Silicon UK that it was pleased with the decision, and it maintains that President Trump unduly influenced the contract award.

“The record of improper influence by former President Trump is disturbing, and we are pleased the Court will review the remarkable impact it had on the JEDI contract award,” an AWS spokesperson told Silicon UK.

“AWS continues to be the superior technical choice, the less expensive choice, and would provide the best value to the DoD and the American taxpayer,” said the AWS spokesperson.

“We continue to look forward to the Court’s review of the many material flaws in the DoD’s evaluation, and we remain absolutely committed to ensuring that the Department has access to the best technology at the best price,” the spokesperson concluded.

Acrimonious bidding

Whatever the eventual outcome of this court case, 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 then 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 US 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.”

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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