Amazon Web Services is appealing the U.S. Department of Defense’s decision last month to award the massive Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud computing contract to rival Microsoft as part of its digital modernisation strategy for the military.
AWS confirmed it filed a notice with the US Court of Federal Claims of its intent to protest the Microsoft award, which was viewed as a major upset for No. 1-ranked AWS by its closest public cloud competitor. Both were finalists for the general-purpose cloud contract, which potentially is worth up to US$10 billion over 10 years.
In a statement, AWS alluded to political pressure from the White House playing a role in the DoD decision.
"AWS is uniquely experienced and qualified to provide the critical technology the U.S. military needs and remains committed to supporting the DoD’s modernisation efforts,” an AWS spokesperson said. “We also 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. Numerous aspects of the JEDI evaluation process contained clear deficiencies, errors and unmistakable bias -- and it’s important that these matters be examined and rectified.”
The Federal Times first reported on AWS’ planned appeal today, citing a video that was recorded at an Amazon meeting and obtained by the news outlet.
“We’re going to protest the decision and push the government to shine a light on what really happened,” AWS CEO Andy Jassy was reported as saying at the meeting. “I think that if you do any thorough, apples-to-apples, objective comparison of AWS versus Microsoft, you don’t come out deciding that they’re comparable platforms. Most of our customers will tell us that we’re about 24 months ahead of Microsoft in functionality and maturity.”
Microsoft could not immediately be reached for comment. A US defense official said the DoD “will not speculate on potential litigation.”
The DoD, in announcing the contract award on 25 October said its selection of Microsoft continued its strategy of having a “multi-vendor, multi-cloud environment as the department’s needs are diverse and cannot be met by any single supplier.”
“This contract will address critical and urgent unmet warfighter requirements for modern cloud infrastructure at all three classification levels delivered out to the tactical edge,” the DoD said in a statement at the time. “The acquisition process was conducted in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. The process cleared review by the GAO (US Government Accountability Office) and Court of Federal Claims. All offerors were treated fairly and evaluated consistently with the solicitation’s stated evaluation criteria. Prior to the award, the department conferred with the DoD Inspector General, which informed the decision to proceed.”
The contract selection process was marred by controversy, including a lawsuit filed by Oracle, one of the original bidders, that accused the DoD of unfairly favoring AWS in the procurement process. President Donald Trump – a critic of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and The Washington Post, which Bezos owns – in July said he would “look closely” into the selection process, telling reporters that “some of the greatest companies in the world are complaining about it." Trump specifically cited Microsoft, Oracle and IBM, also a bidder.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper put a hold on the JEDI decision two weeks later and initiated a review of the military’s procurement process. Esper stepped aside from the procurement process just a few days before the contract was awarded, citing a conflict of interest because his son worked as a consultant for IBM.