AWS seeks Trump deposition in JEDI fight
- By Ross Wilkers
- Feb 12, 2020
In the latest salvo against the award of the Defense Department’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract to Microsoft, Amazon Web Services has asked the Court of Federal Claims judge overseeing the case to allow AWS attorneys to depose President Donald Trump.
AWS has argued that Trump's public comments and his private conversations with Defense Department officials influenced the source-selection process and swung the October award away from AWS.
In addition to Trump, the company also wants to depose former Defense Secretary James Mattis, current Defense Secretary Mark Esper, DOD CIO Dana Deasy, along with Thomas Muir and Barbara Westgate, respectively the current and former director of DOD’s Washington Headquarters Service organization that is in charge of the JEDI procurement. AWS is also seeking depositions from the source selection authority, plus the chairpersons of the source selection advisory council and source selection evaluation board.
AWS’ motion for discovery seeks from DOD and the White House any communications, documents and other information surrounding both the source selection process and a pre-award review by Esper into the procurement, which was announced by Trump in July.
Esper recused himself from JEDI on Oct. 17, citing his son’s employment with IBM, one of four JEDI bidders in an earlier downselect, and the award to Microsoft was announced on Oct. 25. AWS has said the internal decision on selecting Microsoft was actually made on Oct. 22.
AWS continues to claim it has not received substantive responses to 265 questions it put forth to DOD during the debrief process after the contract was awarded. The company also claims that its experience and track record of hosting government data should have swung the JEDI award in its direction instead of to Microsoft.
“President Trump has repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to use his position as president and commander in chief to interfere with government functions -- including federal procurements -- to advance his personal agenda,” an AWS spokesperson said in a statement.
“The preservation of public confidence in the nation’s procurement process requires discovery and supplementation of the administrative record, particularly in light of President Trump’s order to ‘screw Amazon.’ The question is whether the President of the United States should be allowed to use the budget of the DOD to pursue his own personal and political ends.”
The “screw Amazon” reference in AWS’ statement comes from a book by a former DOD staffer of then-Secretary Mattis, which claims Trump told Mattis to steer the JEDI award away from AWS.
AWS argues that those private comments and others from Trump to Esper gradually made their way into how DOD evaluated the proposals. Past performance was not considered, and AWS’ plans to use data centers already certified for use by federal agencies was also rejected by DOD, the company has claimed.
For its part, DOD is pushing back against AWS' latest salvo and wants to begin rolling out JEDI projects.
"DOD strongly opposes the request," Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Robert Carver said in a statement. "Amazon Web Services' request is unnecessary, burdensome and merely seeks to delay getting this important technology into the hands of our warfighters."
Separately, a ruling on an injunction to temporarily pause DOD and Microsoft from working on the JEDI project should come later this week. DOD plans to issue its first "substantive" JEDI task order to Microsoft on Friday if a stop-work order is not imposed.
This article was first posted to Washington Technology, a partner site to Defense Systems.
Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also find and connect with him on LinkedIn.