Anyone who’s been around government contracting isn’t surprised that Amazon Web Services (AWS) protested the Department of Defense’s upholding of its decision to award a $10 billion, 10-year cloud computing contract to Microsoft. AWS called the DoD decision “politically corrupted,” moving it from the usual hard-fought federal contract wars to a political — and even personal — level.
The AWS Public Sector Blog Team wrote:
“AWS remains deeply concerned that the JEDI contract award creates a dangerous precedent that threatens the integrity of the federal procurement system and the ability of our nation’s warfighters and civil servants to access the best possible technologies. Others have raised similar concerns around a growing trend where defense officials act based on a desire to please the President, rather than do what’s right. “
Further, AWS pointed out that Trump refused to cooperate with the DoD Inspector General:
“Instead of cooperating, the White House exerted a ‘presidential communications privilege’ that resulted in senior DoD officials not answering questions about JEDI communications between the White House and DoD. This begs the question, what do they have to hide?”
AWS went on:
“Senior military leadership cannot exercise their sound judgment without facing retribution. Even those who serve our country in the pursuit of justice and fairness under the law, have been sidelined by the President in favor of blatant cronyism.”
This isn’t a contract fight anymore, and it’s beyond political. It’s personal. It’s AWS vs. Trump.
Of course, AWS has business and technical reasons for thinking it should have won, as well. AWS states:
“AWS has more services, and more features within those services, than any other cloud provider– by a large amount. AWS provides a more secure and more operationally performant offering, and remains the only cloud provider accredited to support the full range of U.S. government data classifications. AWS also has a much broader ecosystem of ISV and SaaS partners whose software runs on AWS, so customers can use the same software they’ve been running on-premises, in the cloud. We welcome competition, but any objective, apples-to-apples assessment based purely on the offerings, clearly leads to a different conclusion than the DoD made.”
Microsoft was awarded the JEDI contract in October 2019. Shortly after, Amazon Web Services (AWS) filed suit, claiming Trump’s interference played a big part in Microsoft’s win.
Most people expected AWS to win. Everyone knows AWS is the dominant public cloud provider. Google dropped out of the JEDI bidding late last year, while Oracle and IBM were eliminated earlier this year. Earlier this week, a federal appeals court rejected Oracle’s protest of its elimination from the bidding. In the end, it was AWS vs. Microsoft in the winner-take-all deal.
In March 2020, the DoD requested revised bids from AWS and Microsoft for the storage solutions component of the $10 billion JEDI contract. In mid-August, which was slated to be the deadline for DoD to announce the winner after a review, the agency asked for 30 additional days to issue its decision, which would have made Sept. 16 the new deadline.
The JEDI contract is designed to upgrade legacy DoD systems with newer cloud services. The JEDI Cloud will provide “enterprise-level, commercial IaaS (infrastructure as a service) and PaaS (platform as a service) to the Department and any mission partners for all Department business and mission operations.”
What happens now? It’s off to the courts — where AWS makes it clear that the real fight is:
“Whether the President of the United States should be allowed to use the budget of the Department of Defense to pursue his own personal and political ends? Throughout our protest, we’ve been clear that we won’t allow blatant political interference, or inferior technology, to become an acceptable standard. . . . 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..”