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AWS hits out as US Department of Defense reaffirms JEDI contract award to Microsoft

The US Department of Defense claims its re-evaluation of the controversial JEDI contract award confirms it was right to award the deal to Microsoft, but Amazon Web Services continues to disagree

Amazon Web Services (AWS) said it will continue to push for a “fair and impartial” review of the US Department of Defense’s (DoD) controversial 10-year public cloud contract, despite an internal investigation reaffirming the decision to award the deal to Microsoft.

The DoD released a brief statement on Friday 4 September 2020 confirming the completion of a “comprehensive re-evaluation” of the submissions it received in response to its public cloud-focused Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure (JEDI) project.

The initiative is geared towards supporting the department in its push to create a general-purpose public cloud environment and, in turn, consolidate its datacentres, with the DoD confirming in October 2019 that Microsoft had succeeded in winning the $10bn contract.

The contract award process, however, had been beset by protests, delays and court appeals, with much of the initial criticism of the deal focusing on the fact that the DoD’s favouring of a single supplier to deliver on the deal unfairly favoured AWS.

Since October 2019, AWS has spoken publicly of its concerns the decision to award Microsoft the contract came about as a direct consequence of “political inference” from US president Donald Trump, while repeatedly making the point that its public cloud services portfolio is superior to Microsoft’s.

Despite these assertions, the DoD said in its September 2020 statement that its re-evaluation had confirmed that Microsoft’s proposal “continues to represent the best value to the government” and – therefore – its contract award should still stand.

“The JEDI Cloud contract is a firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract that will make a full range of cloud computing services available to the DoD,” the statement said.

As confirmed in the statement, Microsoft is unable to begin work on the contract at present, while a temporary restraining order issued by the Court of Federal Claims in February 2020 – in response to a request by AWS – remains in place.  

“While contract performance will not begin immediately due to the Preliminary Injunction Order issued by the Court of Federal Claims on 13 February 2020, DoD is eager to begin delivering this capability to our men and women in uniform,” the statement concluded.

The outcome of DoD’s “comprehensive re-evaluation” into the contract has not been received well by AWS, which issued a lengthy statement in response on 4 September, where it set out its intention to continue campaigning for a “fair, objective and impartial” review of the contract.

On this point, the company said it “strongly disagrees” with the DoD’s “flawed evaluation”, and claimed the DoD’s attempt at “corrective action” achieved nothing but “waste five months” that could have been better spent getting to the bottom of the “serious concerns” raised to date about how the contract was awarded.

“We strongly disagree with the DoD’s flawed evaluation and 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”
Amazon Web Services

“Corrective action was used as a way to halt our litigation, delay further investigations and incorrectly give the appearance that only one issue needed to be fixed, while giving the impression that the DoD was actually going to fix something,” AWS said in its statement.

“While corrective action can be used to efficiently resolve protests, in reality, this corrective action changed nothing, wasted five months that could have been spent getting to the bottom of these serious concerns, and was designed solely to distract from our broader concerns and reaffirm a decision that was corrupted by the President’s self-interest.”

It added: “When we opposed the DoD’s approach to corrective action, we predicted this would happen, and it has. By continuing to delay, distract and avoid addressing these very serious issues, the DoD is turning out to be its own worst enemy with regard to speeding things along.”

The statement also sees Amazon double-down on its criticism of Trump and his alleged interference in directing the DoD to award the contract to Microsoft.

“We strongly disagree with the DoD’s flawed evaluation and 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,” the statement said.

“Throughout our protest, we've been clear that we won’t allow blatant political interference, or inferior technology, to become an acceptable standard.

“Although these are not easy decisions to make, and we do not take them lightly, we will not back down in the face of targeted political cronyism or illusory corrective actions, and we will continue pursuing a fair, objective and impartial review,” it added.

Read more about the JEDI cloud contract

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