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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Pentagon review of possible Amazon-JEDI conflict just routine

I generally don’t get involved in media criticism, but there has been some recent reporting in the Washington Post and elsewhere that the Defense Department is reviewing an Amazon employee who worked at DOD to see if there is a conflict of interest where the JEDI cloud contract is concerned.

This is technically true. But it is not a gotcha moment; rather it is more business as usual.

While this battle rages at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, DOD continues on with its evaluation and work toward awarding the $10 billion contract known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract.

As it did at the Government Accountability Office, Oracle is arguing against the single-award strategy at DOD and making allegations about conflicts of interest against two people who worked at DOD and also worked or are currently working at Amazon Web Services.

Those allegations led Amazon Web Services to file as an “intervenor” in December at the Court of Federal Claims and essentially become a co-defendant with the Defense Department.

What is in the latest filings? A lot of rehashing of well-known facts and accusations.

Buried this DOD filing is a paragraph stating that the contracting officer is reviewing the department's rehiring of Deap Ubhi and whether that creates an conflict of interest that cannot be mitigated. Ubhi had worked for Amazon, left and went to work at DOD.

One year later, he started working on JEDI but then recused himself when it looked like Amazon was going to buy a company that he founded. He later left DOD went back to Amazon Web Services.

This disclosure of the conflict-of-interest review is standard operating procedure.

Oracle raised its allegation of conflict of interest when it protested at GAO. GAO rejected that point – along with the others – but said essentially said that since no award had been made there was no way to say whether Oracle had been damaged.

The court filing states that the contracting officer didn’t consider Ubhi re-hiring as a conflict of interest because when Oracle filed its protest, no one had submitted a proposal yet.

If AWS wins the JEDI contract, that’s the appropriate time for Oracle to raise the conflict argument. They can ask how DOD determined there was no conflict or whether the conflict could be mitigated.

In other words, DOD is just doing its job right now.

Having said all of that, I think the conflict of interest allegations are likely the best shot that Oracle has to prevail in this fight.

The other arguments attacking DOD’s decision to go with a single award for JEDI is just too big a lift.

Of course, I could be completely wrong. Handicapping the Court of Federal Claims isn’t something I do, but it is just my gut telling me that Oracle is a long shot.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jan 25, 2019 at 11:14 AM

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