Amazon cites 'unmistakable bias' in JEDI protest
- By Adam Mazmanian
- Nov 18, 2019
Amazon Web Services isn't taking its loss in the $10 billion, 10-year JEDI cloud procurement lying down.
The cloud giant plans to sue the Department of Defense in the Court of Federal Claims to seek reconsideration of the award to Microsoft in the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract.
In a statement, an AWS spokesperson indicated that the company's case hinges on political interference -- very likely referencing public remarks from President Donald Trump casting aspersions on AWS and Amazon's founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.
"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. 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," an AWS spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "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."
The JEDI procurement came down to a faceoff between Microsoft and AWS. As the loser, AWS was entitled to what's called an "enhanced debriefing" from the contracting officer. This essentially spells out whether AWS lost on price, technical factors, experience, past performance or other factors.
The questions of deficiencies and errors in the evaluation process will have to wait for AWS court filings. But the question of bias is expected to include Trump's public and reported remarks critical of the AWS bid to run the Pentagon's warfighter cloud.
According to a book about Jim Mattis' time as defense secretary, Trump ordered Mattis to "screw Amazon" out of an opportunity to win the coveted cloud contract.
In a July 18, 2019, parlay with reporters in the Oval Office, Trump said he was "getting tremendous complaints about the contract with the Pentagon and with Amazon." The president added, "They’re saying it wasn’t competitively bid."
Throughout the long and fraught JEDI procurement process, AWS was viewed as the likely frontrunner, based on its experience operating a top-secret impact level 6 cloud for the CIA and its status as the world's largest commercial cloud provider.
Oracle, one of the early bidders on JEDI, sued after its exclusion arguing in part that the requirements for the cloud buy were tilted in favor of AWS partly due to the participation of individuals with business ties to AWS taking an active part in the procurement. In fact, AWS is still defending the Oracle lawsuit alongside DOD as it moves through the appeals process. That means AWS will be defending the structure and design of the JEDI procurement in one Washington, D.C., courtroom while objecting to the final award in another.
"Given the stakes -- not only the loss of up to $10 billion, but potentially being excluded from a lucrative business opportunity for as long as a decade -- there doesn't seem to be much downside in Amazon protesting the award," Steven L. Schooner, a professor of government procurement law at George Washington University, told FCW in an interview for an previous article on the JEDI award.
This article first appeared on FCW, a partner site of Defense Systems.
Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.
Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.
Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.