The US Department of Defense (DoD) has announced that it is cancelling its JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure) contract.

The JEDI contract was worth up to $10 billion, and sought to create a single cloud architecture across all the military branches and combatant commands. The idea was to allow a seamless workflow and information-sharing environment.

But after a protracted and ongoing legal challenge by Amazon Web Services, over the Pentagon’s decision to award the contract solely to Microsoft, the DoD followed through on its threat and cancelled the project altogether.

AWS Reaction

The cancellation of the JEDI contract has prompted a reaction from both AWS and Microsoft.

AWS for its part said the cancellation was understandable considering what it alleges was the flawed awarding of the contract.

Amazon Web Services has always maintained that the decision was not adjudicated fairly and that former former US President Trump exerted “improper pressure” and bias because of his intense dislike of Jeff Bezos.

“We understand and agree with the DoD’s decision,” an AWS spokesperson told Silicon UK via email. “Unfortunately, the contract award was not based on the merits of the proposals and instead was the result of outside influence that has no place in government procurement.”

AWS made clear it was still wholly committed to supporting the US military going forward.

“Our commitment to supporting our nation’s military and ensuring that our warfighters and defense partners have access to the best technology at the best price is stronger than ever,” added the AWS spokesperson. “We look forward to continuing to support the DoD’s modernisation efforts and building solutions that help accomplish their critical missions.”

Microsoft reaction

Redmond likewise presented a measured response to the news that it would no longer receive up to $10 billion for the JEDI contract.

However, under the surface there is likely to be some very unhappy people at Microsoft, and many would have paid good money to be a fly on the wall in the office of CEO Satya Nadella, when the cancellation was confirmed.

Instead, Microsoft’s President of US Regulated Industries, Toni Townes-Whitley, penned a blog posting on the matter, in which she confirmed that “Microsoft’s commitment to the DoD remains steadfast.”

However reading between the lines of the blog post, it is clear Microsoft has been frustrated at the protracted legal challenge from AWS – “when one company can delay, for years, critical technology upgrades for those who defend our nation”.

“Today the US Department of Defense (DoD) announced they will not move forward with the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract and instead will pursue a new procurement to meet its cloud computing needs,” wrote Townes-Whitley.

“We understand the DoD’s rationale, and we support them and every military member who needs the mission-critical 21st century technology JEDI would have provided,” Townes-Whitley added. “The DoD faced a difficult choice: Continue with what could be a years-long litigation battle or find another path forward. The security of the United States is more important than any single contract, and we know that Microsoft will do well when the nation does well.”

“Because the security of the United States through the provision of critical technology upgrades is more important that any single contract, we respect and accept DoD’s decision to move forward on a different path to secure mission-critical technology,” wrote Townes-Whitley.

Townes-Whitley then opened up a bit and lashed out at AWS and its legal challenge.

“The 20 months since DoD selected Microsoft as its JEDI partner highlights issues that warrant the attention of policymakers: when one company can delay, for years, critical technology upgrades for those who defend our nation, the protest process needs reform,” said Townes-Whitley. “Amazon filed its protest in November 2019 and its case was expected to take at least another year to litigate and yield a decision, with potential appeals afterward.”

Townes-Whitley said the firm was confident Microsoft continue to be successful as the DoD selects partners for new work, as the DoD had decided “not once but twice” after careful review to opt for Redmond.

“What matters now is the way forward, as the DoD has a critical unmet need to bring the power of cloud and AI to our men and women in uniform, modernising technology infrastructure and platform services technology,” wrote Townes-Whitley. “We stand ready to support the DoD as they work through their next steps and its new cloud computing solicitation plans.”

Townes-Whitley then used the blog to have another pop at Amazon Web Services.

“Our focus on our customer, and not politics or litigation, is the cornerstone of our approach to help governments and businesses achieve their mission outcomes,” wrote Townes-Whitley.

“We continue to focus on the future – and on our customers,” Townes-Whitley concluded. “One contract has never, and will never, define our relationship with the DoD or any customer. Our decades-long partnership with the DoD will continue – and we stand ready to support our nation’s men and women in uniform as they address our national security needs.”

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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