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JEDI cloud contract: US court refuses to dismiss Amazon’s ‘political interference’ allegations

The long-running JEDI cloud contract row rumbles on as US Court of Federal Claims refuses to dismiss Amazon’s allegations that the Trump administration interfered with contract’s outcome

The US Court of Federal Claims’ decision not to dismiss allegations that presidential interference played a role in Amazon Web Services (AWS) losing a $10bn government cloud contract “changes little”, Microsoft claims.

The two cloud giants have been at loggerheads and embroiled in a legal battle since the US Department of Defense (DoD) confirmed in October 2019 that it had appointed Microsoft to deliver its decade-long, $10bn public cloud-focused Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure (JEDI) contract.

AWS has repeatedly gone on record to claim the decision to award the contract to Microsoft had been subject to “political interference” from former US president Donald Trump, while arguing the point that its public cloud services portfolio is technologically superior.

On Wednesday 28 April, the US Court of Federal Claims issued a sealed decision that denied motions filed by the US Department of Justice and Microsoft that requested AWS’s allegations about the Trump administration’s interference in JEDI contract award be dismissed.

In response, AWS issued a statement commending the court on its decision: “The record of improper influence by former President Trump is disturbing, and we are pleased the Court will review the remarkable impact it had on the JEDI contract award.

“AWS continues to be the superior technical choice, the less expensive choice, and would provide the best value to the DoD and the American taxpayer. We continue to look forward to the court’s review of the many material flaws in the DoD’s evaluation, and we remain absolutely committed to ensuring that the DoD has access to the best technology at the best price.”

Microsoft’s corporate vice-president of communications, Frank X. Shaw, issued a response on behalf of the tech giant that sought to play down the significance of the court’s decision, while referencing the fact the contract’s outcome has been reviewed twice and Microsoft has emerged as the victor both times.

“This procedural ruling changes little. Not once, but twice, professional procurement staff at the DoD chose Microsoft after a thorough review. Many other large and sophisticated customers make the same choice every week,” said Shaw.

“We’ve continued for more than a year to do the internal work necessary to move forward on JEDI quickly, and we continue to work with DoD – as we have for more than 40 years – on mission-critical initiatives like supporting its rapid shift to remote work and the US Army’s IVAS [integrated visual augmentation systems].”

This latest set of developments is the latest in a long line of protests, legal actions and court appeals that have blighted the delivery of the DoD cloud contract, which has been mired in controversy since it was first announced in September 2017.

The contract’s aim was to source a single supplier which could help the DoD build a general purpose public cloud to host its workloads, as part of a wider datacentre downsizing effort by the department.

Concerns were initially raised about the fact the contract favoured the use of a single supplier, with the likes of Oracle complaining that meant it was unfairly weighted towards AWS, which was – until the contract award was made public – considered to be the frontrunner for the deal.

AWS has since contested Microsoft’s victory through the courts, and has previously secured a temporary restraining order to prevent work on the project from proceeding, as it continues to push for what it terms a “fair and impartial” review of the JEDI contract award process.

Read more about the JEDI cloud contract

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