Pentagon Mulls JEDI Contract Cancellation Amid Legal Fight

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The Pentagon may cancel the JEDI contract altogether and start over, due to the legal battle raging over Microsoft’s award

The Pentagon is reportedly considering the termination of its Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud computing project.

The drastic action is being mulled because of the ongoing legal battle being waged by Amazon Web Services (AWS), which saw a legal setback for Microsoft and Department of Justice (DoJ) in late April.

The legal woes for the Pentagon began back in October 2019 when it decided to award the JEDI contract exclusively to Microsoft, despite Amazon’s AWS cloud division being widely regarded as favourite to win the contract.

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Controversial award

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

AWS CEO Andy Jassy (who is soon to be Amazon CEO) even went so far as to publicly state that 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 from the Pentagon, Amazon in January 2020 filed a temporary restraining order with a US court to demand that Microsoft halt work on the DoD cloud contract.

The Pentagon’s worse fears were confirmed in February 2020, when a US judge granted Amazon’s request to temporarily halt Microsoft from moving forward on the $10 billion cloud computing deal.

Trump interference

Essentially Amazon has argued right from the start 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 intense dislike of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and the Washington Post, which Bezos owns.

After a US judge granted Amazon’s injunction on the JEDI project, the Pentagon said it would reconsider parts of its decision to award Microsoft the project.

But two months later in April 2020, the US DoD Office of Inspector General said it was unable to rule out if President Trump’s White House influenced the decision.

And much to the frustration of AWS, in September 2020 the Pentagon concluded that Microsoft had been the best value for money for the contract.

AWS however last month won a small legal victory when the US Court of Federal Claims denied the motions filed by Microsoft and DoJ, requesting the Court dismiss AWS’s allegations that the Trump Administration interfered in the JEDI award.

Scrapping JEDI?

Now according to the Wall Street Journal, Pentagon officials are mulling ending its JEDI cloud-computing project altogether.

Microsoft reportedly said in a statement on Monday that it was ready to deliver on JEDI, but that the litigation battle was harmful.

“We agree with the US Departments of Defense and Justice that prolonged litigation is harmful and has delayed getting this technology to our military service members who need it,” Microsoft reportedly said.

“We’re going to have to assess where we are with regard to the ongoing litigation around JEDI and determine what the best path forward is for the department,” Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks was quoted as saying previously at a security conference.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that some US lawmakers and government-contracting experts contend that JEDI should be scuttled solely because its single-vendor approach is inappropriate and impractical for massive organisations such as the DoD.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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