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AWS secures temporary halt to Microsoft’s work on $10bn US JEDI cloud contract

Restraining order prevents Microsoft doing any “substantial” work on the JEDI cloud contract as Amazon’s legal action against the US government gathers pace

Amazon has succeeded in getting the US Federal Court to back its bid to stop Microsoft pressing ahead with the delivery of the $10bn cloud contract it secured with the US Department of Defense (DoD) in October 2019.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) had applied for a temporary restraining order against Microsoft to prevent “substantial” work on the DoD’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract going ahead while legal action concerning the deal plays out in the court.

The US Federal Court approved the restraining order on Thursday 13 February and, according to US media reports, AWS has been instructed to set aside $42m to cover costs and damages if, over the course of the legal action, it transpires that the work stoppage order was issued wrongfully.

AWS declined to comment on the development but, in a statement to Computer Weekly, Frank X Shaw, corporate vice-president of Microsoft Communications, said the company was “disappointed” with this turn of events.

“While we are disappointed with the additional delay, we believe we will ultimately be able to move forward with the work to make sure that those who serve our country can access the new technology they urgently required,” Shaw’s statement read.

“We have confidence in the Department of Defense, and we believe the facts will show that they ran a detailed, thorough and fair process in determining that the needs of the warfighter were best met by Microsoft.”  

As previously reported by Computer Weekly, AWS CEO Andy Jassy has gone on record to blame “significant political interference” for his firm losing out on the contract, despite being widely considered to be a shoo-in for the deal during much of the procurement process.

So much so that the contract took a year longer than expected to award because the process was marred by protests and legal action centring on claims that the way the original tender was structured unfairly favoured AWS from the start.

Read more about AWS and JEDI

However, it is claimed that possible interference by US president Donald Trump during the later stages of the process may have led to the outcome of the competition playing out differently, which is why AWS is known to have made a request earlier this month for Trump and US defence secretary Mark Esper to testify during the court action.

In a statement released at the time, an AWS spokesperson set out the rationale behind the move, saying it related partly back to media reports that Trump had ordered the previous defence secretary, James Mattis, to “screw Amazon” out of the JEDI deal.

“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,” the AWS statement read.

“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.”

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