[Updated at 3 p.m. Pacific on Friday, Sept. 4.]
Amazon issued a searing response Friday to the Department of Defense’s reaffirmation of Microsoft as the winner of the coveted $10 billion JEDI military cloud computing contract — calling it a “politically corrupted” contract award, doubling down on its allegation that President Trump improperly influenced the outcome, and implicitly criticizing its rival’s cloud technology as inferior to its own.
“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 company says in a lengthy post, under the headline, “JEDI: Why we will continue to protest this politically corrupted contract award.”
Amazon’s post continues:
“The question we continue to ask ourselves 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. 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.”
The blistering response came after the Pentagon issued a statement Friday saying that its internal review confirmed Microsoft as the rightful winner of the contract, known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract.
“The Department has completed its comprehensive re-evaluation of the JEDI Cloud proposals and determined that Microsoft’s proposal continues to represent the best value to the Government,” the DoD statement said. It added, “While contract performance will not begin immediately due to the Preliminary Injunction Order issued by the Court of Federal Claims on February 13, 2020, DoD is eager to begin delivering this capability to our men and women in uniform.”
Amazon Web Services, the longtime leader in public cloud computing, sued the federal government after Microsoft emerged as the surprise winner of the JEDI contract last year. Among other claims, the company alleges that President Donald Trump’s personal animus toward Amazon improperly influenced the outcome.
However, a report by the Defense Department’s inspector general in April found that DoD officials “were not pressured regarding their decision on the award of the contract by any DoD leaders more senior to them, who may have communicated with the White House.”
At the same time, the report noted that the White House exercised presidential privilege and instructed several Defense Department witnesses not to answer questions from investigators.
In its post on Friday, Amazon said, “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?”
Beyond the financial value, the Pentagon’s selection of Microsoft Azure was an endorsement of its technical capabilities, at a time when many companies are shifting to the cloud. In an interview with GeekWire last year, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said the JEDI contract award reflected the company’s work in areas including hybrid computing, combining elements of the cloud and on-premises servers.
Microsoft issued this statement Friday on the Pentagon’s announcement: “We appreciate that after careful review, the DoD confirmed that we offered the right technology and the best value. We’re ready to get to work and make sure that those who serve our country have access to this much needed technology.”
Microsoft declined to offer additional comment related to Amazon’s response.
Amazon has also been beefing up its hybrid cloud capabilities. Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy said last year that he believed there was “significant political interference” in the U.S. government’s decision. Amazon’s formal appeal cited evidence including President Trump’s comments to supporters and reporters, as well as a Fox News segment that urged Trump to keep the Pentagon from awarding the deal to Amazon.
Trump has frequently been at odds with Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos over issues including the U.S. Postal Service and the tech giant’s market power.
Amazon’s post reads, in part, “Taking corrective action should have provided the DoD an opportunity to address the numerous material evaluation errors outlined in our protest, ensure a fair and level playing field, and ultimately, expedite the conclusion of litigation. Unfortunately, the DoD rejected that opportunity.”
The company calls itself “the clear leader in cloud computing,” saying that it has “superior technology” by “any objective measure.” It notes, “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.”
Amazon’s post adds, “There is a recurring pattern to the way President Trump behaves when he’s called out for doing something egregious: first he denies doing it, then he looks for ways to push it off to the side, to distract attention from it and delay efforts to investigate it (so people get bored and forget about it). And then he ends up doubling down on the egregious act anyway.
“On JEDI, President Trump reportedly ordered former Secretary Mattis to ‘screw’ Amazon, blatantly interfered in an active procurement, directed his subordinate to conduct an unorthodox ‘review’ prior to a contract award announcement and then stonewalled an investigation into his own political interference.”
The president’s leadership of the military is in the spotlight for another reason today, after The Atlantic reported that he disparaged Americans who died at war.