For months Amazon has been pleading with a federal court to order the Department of Defense to review its decision to award a lucrative, high-profile cloud contract to rival Microsoft. Earlier this month Amazon appeared to get its wish; the Pentagon agreed to review part of Microsoft’s bid. But documents unsealed Tuesday reveal Amazon is fighting the federal government’s approach.
At issue is the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) project, a $10 billion, 10-year contract to move the Pentagon’s operations to the cloud. Amazon and Microsoft have been vying for JEDI for months and are now locked in a legal battle with the federal government over alleged bias in the procurement process.
A spokesperson for Amazon Web Services said the Defense Department’s proposed review is far too narrow to address the full scope of issues the company has raised. The spokesperson detailed Amazon’s position in a statement:
“We’re pleased to see the DoD recognize the need to take corrective action, but we’re concerned that the proposed approach is not designed to provide a complete, fair, and effective re-evaluation. Both earlier in the adjudication process when we submitted 265 questions to the DoD that they refused to answer and in our protest where we outlined numerous significant flaws in the evaluation, it’s been clear that there were many problems with the DoD’s initial decision. Instead of addressing the breadth of problems in its proposed corrective action, the DoD’s proposal focuses only on providing Microsoft a “do-over” on its fatally flawed bid while preventing AWS from adjusting its own pricing in response to the DoD’s new storage criteria. This attempt to gerrymander the corrective action without fixing all of the serious flaws pointed out in our complaint raises significant questions.”
In February, the court issued a temporary injunction barring the Department of Defense and Microsoft from moving forward on the JEDI project. The injunction was based on the premise that DoD may have made an error in its evaluation of Microsoft’s bid.
Earlier this month, DoD said that it wanted to reconsider parts of its award decision to Microsoft and asked for 120 days to examine one issue related to “online marketplace offerings.”
However, a Pentagon spokesperson, Rachel VanJohnson, told the Washington Post at the time that the process of evaluating the bids was “fair and unbiased.”
“While we disagree with the Court’s decision, we must address the findings in the Court’s Order with the intent of ensuring our warfighters will get this urgent and critically needed technology as quickly and efficiently as possible,” she said. “As such, the Department determined that the best and most efficient path forward is to conduct a re-evaluation of the proposals in order to address the Court’s noted concerns.”
Amazon is now asking the court to deny the government’s motion to review its award to Microsoft. Instead, Amazon wants the court to require DoD to re-evaluate the proposals based on all of the issues that the company has raised.
“The Government should not be permitted to gerrymander the corrective action to preserve the illusion that Microsoft offered the lowest price while simultaneously perpetuating competitive impediments for AWS, the only offeror that submitted a compliant proposal eligible for award,” Amazon said in its motion.
Amazon’s case is based on the premise that President Donald Trump’s personal animus toward the company improperly influenced the outcome of the JEDI competition.
Though Amazon was long seen as the frontrunner for JEDI, the DoD surprised many by awarding the contract to Microsoft last fall. Amazon attributes the outcome to public and private criticisms of the company by Trump. In February, unsealed court documents revealed Amazon wants to depose Trump and other key Defense Department figures as part of the proceedings.
Microsoft declined to comment on Amazon’s motion but pointed to past comments by spokesperson Frank Shaw. Earlier this month, he said Microsoft believes “the Department of Defense made the correct decision when they awarded the contract.”
Shaw said at the time, “Over two years the DoD reviewed dozens of factors and sub factors and found Microsoft equal or superior to AWS on every factor. We remain confident that Microsoft’s proposal was technologically superior, continues to offer the best value, and is the right choice for the DoD.”
“However, we support their decision to reconsider a small number of factors as it is likely the fastest way to resolve all issues and quickly provide the needed modern technology to people across our armed forces,” he said.
Read Amazon’s motion opposing the Defense Department’s review below.