Ross Wilkers

JEDI

AWS renews JEDI protest with a few twists

Amazon Web Services’ amended complaint in its lawsuit over the Defense Department’s high-profile and highly-controversial JEDI cloud infrastructure contract largely reiterates what it has said before.

AWS continues to argue the Defense Department wrongly awarded the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract to Microsoft. Not just the first time in October 2019, but now a second time through a partial corrective action wrapped up in September of this year that saw Microsoft get selected again.

How that partial redo played out is where we can fast forward to in the new 175-page version of AWS' complaint filed to the Court of Federal Claims in October and partially unsealed with redactions Tuesday.

In essence, AWS says its revised proposal is now the lower-priced bid by a magnitude lower than that of Microsoft's bid in round two.

The Pentagon stuck with Microsoft after both companies were allowed to submit new bids in light of a judge’s finding that the online storage aspects in those proposals were incorrectly evaluated in favor of Microsoft.

The price AWS gave in its second proposal is redacted, so there is no official side-by-side comparison that can be seen yet.

But that still adds onto AWS’ longstanding bones to pick with DOD regarding JEDI: that actions from Trump administration officials swung the award to Microsoft through a series of errors in the procurement process, including the evaluations.

As part of that, AWS also continues to claim that DOD’s answers to the company’s questions as part of the debrief are either unanswered or lacking in detail that would explain the decision.

Perhaps a third crux of AWS’ is its view of Microsoft’s ability to work on the JEDI project. In the amended complaint, AWS says “Microsoft has never performed a cloud computing contract of this scale or complexity” and the latter’s Azure offering did not pass the evaluation criteria, but that didn’t stop DOD from being “focused on affirming its prior award to Microsoft.”

For its part, Microsoft is working toward getting accreditation from DOD to host data in the cloud at the top secret level. AWS is the only cloud provider with that official designation but Microsoft unveiled a new cloud service earlier this month to get to that point.

As yours truly was writing this for today (Wednesday), attorneys for the U.S. government issued their 34-page amended response to AWS’ complaint that pushes back against the claim of political interference.

A DOD inspector general report released last year said no evidence was found that actions from Trump administration officials weighed on the selection of Microsoft, though many of those asked to speak with the IG either did not at all or declined to answer certain questions.

Lawyers for the government reference that report in defense of DOD and essentially said that AWS should have raised any issues it had about the procurement process including bias allegations before the award.

How Amazon Web Services sees it

“After the court rejected the flawed initial JEDI evaluation, the DOD spent over four months attempting to revive Microsoft’s non-compliant bid and reaffirm that flawed and politically-biased decision. As a result of the DoD fixing just one of many errors, the pricing differential swung substantially, with AWS now the lowest-priced bid by tens of millions of dollars,” an AWS spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“The fact that correcting just one error can move the needle that substantially demonstrates why it’s important that the DOD fix all of the evaluation errors that remain unaddressed, and ensure they are getting access to the best technology at the best price. We had made clear that unless the DOD addressed all of the defects in its initial decision, we would continue to pursue a fair and objective review, and that’s exactly where we find ourselves today.”

How Microsoft sees it

“Amazon seems to be saying the only way they can ever lose is if the procurement isn’t fair. But every month, the market tells them that’s not true. Large and sophisticated customers regularly choose Microsoft over AWS. They do this because of the strength of our technology, our understanding of complex projects, and our overall value. As the losing bidder, Amazon was informed of our pricing and they realized they’d originally bid too high,” Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of communications, said in a statement.

“They then amended aspects of their bid to achieve a lower price. However, when looking at all the criteria together, the career procurement officials at the DOD decided that given the superior technical advantages and overall value, we continued to offer the best solution. We also know what it takes to serve the DOD having worked with them for more than forty years. The DOD’s independent IG report found there was no evidence of actual procurement interference so it is time we moved on and got this technology in the hands of those who urgently need it: the women and men who protect our nation.”

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 connect with him on LinkedIn.

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