AWS wants Trump deposition as part of JEDI fight
- By Ross Wilkers
- Feb 10, 2020
Amazon Web Services is going right to the top of the food chain in its protest against the award of the Defense Department’s JEDI cloud infrastructure contract to Microsoft.
In a series of court filings unsealed Monday, Amazon has asked the Court of Federal Claims judge overseeing the case to depose none other than President Donald Trump.
A main crux of AWS’ case, first filed in November and then unsealed in December, is that public comments by Trump and his private words to DOD leaders affected the behind-the-scenes source selection process and swung the award in October to Microsoft.
President Trump is not the only high-profile person AWS wants to question. The company also wants to depose former Defense Secretary James Mattis, plus current Defense Secretary Mark Esper and DOD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy.
Those four are among six named subjects listed in the filings that AWS is seeking to quiz. The other two are Thomas Muir and Barbara Westgate, respectively the current and former director of DOD’s Washington Headquarters Service organization that is in charge of the JEDI procurement.
While their names are redacted, AWS is also seeking depositions from the source selection authority, plus the chairpersons of the source selection advisory council and source selection evaluation board.
They either were responsible for selecting the final awardee or signing off on that decision. AWS’ motion for discovery seeks from DOD and the White House any communications, documents and other information surrounding both the source selection process and a pre-award review by Esper into the procurement, which was announced by Trump in July.
Esper most notably recused himself from JEDI on Oct. 17 due to his son’s employment with IBM, one of four JEDI bidders in an earlier downselect, and the award to Microsoft was announced on Oct. 25. AWS has said the internal decision on selecting Microsoft was actually made on Oct. 22.
AWS continues to claim it has not received substantive responses to 265 questions it put forth to DOD during the debrief process after the contract was awarded. A second but just as key argument to AWS’ case is that its experience and track record of hosting government data should have swung the JEDI award in its direction instead of Microsoft.
“President Trump has repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to use his position as president and commander in chief to interfere with government functions -- including federal procurements -- to advance his personal agenda,” an AWS spokesperson said in a statement.
“The preservation of public confidence in the nation’s procurement process requires discovery and supplementation of the administrative record, particularly in light of President Trump’s order to ‘screw Amazon.’ The question is whether the President of the United States should be allowed to use the budget of the DOD to pursue his own personal and political ends.”
The “screw Amazon” reference in AWS’ statement pertains to a book by a former DOD staffer of then-secretary Mattis, which claims Trump told Mattis to steer the JEDI award away from AWS.
AWS’ case that those private comments and others from Trump to Esper gradually made their way into how DOD evaluated the proposals. Past performance was not considered and AWS’ plans to use data centers already certified for use by federal agencies was also rejected by DOD, the company has claimed.
Deasy’s listing as a potential deposition subject references that the DOD CIO post is now a political appointment. Deasy was nominated by Trump to the position in June 2019 even though he had been in the role for one year.
For its part, DOD is pushing back against AWS' latest salvo and wants to push further along on the JEDI project.
"DOD strongly opposes the request. Amazon Web Services' request is unnecessary, burdensome and merely seeks to delay getting this important technology into the hands of our warfighters," Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Co. Robert Carver said in a statement.
Separately, a ruling on an injunction to temporarily pause DOD and Microsoft from working on the JEDI project should come later this week. DOD plans to issue its first "substantive" JEDI task order to Microsoft on Friday if a stop-work order is not imposed.
Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also find and connect with him on LinkedIn.