Defense

New AWS protest spawns JEDI blog wars

pentagon cloud 

Amazon Web Services filed an agency protest with the Defense Department seeking clarity about technical aspects of the $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract, which was recently reopened and revised by the DOD as part of a long-running legal battle.

Microsoft won the JEDI contract in October, but a lawsuit from rival AWS and early legal ruling from a federal judge induced the Pentagon to amend the solicitation and invite new bids on storage requirements for the portion of the request for bids called "price scenario 6" – a cloud storage component that, according to the judge's read on the bids, was out of compliance with JEDI requirements.

Revised bids could lead to a shift in the award, or it could not; AWS is suing on grounds other than the technical requirements at stake in the revised solicitation. However, the non-public agency protest with DOD caught the attention of Microsoft, which came out swinging in a May 7 blog post.

"Amazon is at it again, trying to grind this process to a halt, keeping vital technology from the men and women in uniform – the very people Amazon says it supports," Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw wrote in the post. "This latest filing….is another example of Amazon trying to bog down JEDI in complaints, litigation and other delays designed to force a do-over to rescue its failed bid."

AWS countered with an email blast to reporters saying that DOD declined to answer specific questions on the amended solicitation. "We simply want to ensure a common understanding of the DOD's requirements and eliminate ambiguity that could impact a fair evaluation," an AWS spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

AWS appears to doubt the sincerity of the proposed corrective action because of a number of factors identified in other parts of the lawsuit, including political interference from the White House that allegedly steered the contract to Microsoft because of President Donald Trump's well-documented animus to Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of AWS parent company Amazon. That lawsuit is in the midst of 120-day remand while DOD considers revised bids.

Additionally, AWS is concerned about details in a report from the DOD Office of Inspector General in April that detailed efforts by senior officials at the White House and DOD to block investigations into the impact of political interference on the JEDI award. That OIG report did not conclude that political interference was dispositive in the award or necessarily even made it down the chain from top officials to the rank-and-file career employees charged with running the procurement, but the report did suggest that their efforts to investigate political skullduggery were blocked at every turn.

"We could not definitively determine the full extent or nature of interactions that administration officials had, or may have had, with senior DoD officials regarding the JEDI Cloud procurement," the report states.

Still, Shaw said the cold facts are that AWS isn't getting a do-over when it comes to its bid for the JEDI contract, which has a $10 billion ceiling value over 10 years.

"[T]he changes DoD have made based on the judge's ruling do not allow Amazon to undo its earlier business decision to bid high, which resulted in their loss. It does not allow Amazon to completely re-do its pricing, especially now that it knows Microsoft's price and has a target to shoot at. And it does not allow Amazon to tilt the playing field in its favor," Shaw wrote.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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