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AWS CEO weighs in on Trump's JEDI impact

Amazon Web Services is putting the words of President Donald Trump at the center of the company’s protest against the Defense Department’s award of the JEDI cloud infrastructure contract to Microsoft.

We know that from one of the few unsealed documents AWS filed with the Court of Federal Claims in mid-November. We also now have the words of AWS CEO Andy Jassy to show that the company is focusing on political pressures from the Trump administration as a factor in the award.

In this interview aired Tuesday on CNBC, Jassy was reluctant to get into the details of the technical solution AWS offered in its bid that will inevitably become part of the argument. But he did shed some light on how AWS came to the conclusion that it would go to the judicial forum.

The company did not decide to protest “the second that we heard the decision,” Jassy said. “You have to understand what the rationale was and there was a lot of data that in any one of these procurements that you get after a decision was made. But after we looked at the data carefully, there was really little question. I think we have to shine a light on what happened here.”

AWS believes it has to shine a light on the effects of what Trump has said both about the overall Amazon corporation and Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO.

One of the unsealed documents in AWS’ court filing lists two videos of Trump speeches, one in which he attacks Bezos’ ownership of the Post among other items and a second to announce DOD would “look at (JEDI) very closely” after much “complaining from different companies like Microsoft and Oracle and IBM.”

DOD’s response to the protest is due to the court by Jan. 21. The department likely made its award with the idea that it would have to explain it in a protest, whether it be at the Government Accountability Office or Court of Federal Claims.

The court does have wider latitude of issues it can examine and authority to enforce protests than GAO, even though they look at similar aspects of acquisitions. AWS essentially will have to show the court that political pressures from the White House made it to DOD’s source selection panel: something Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy told Senate lawmakers in October he thought was highly unlikely.

Jassy argued to CNBC that such pressure was inevitable given what is already out in the public domain.

“When you have a sitting president who’s willing to be very vocal that they dislike a company and the CEO of that company, it makes it difficult for government agencies including the DOD to make objective decisions without fear of reprisal,” Jassy said.

About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at rwilkers@washingtontechnology.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also find and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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