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Why AWS may not protest the JEDI award

I’ll start this by saying I have no legal training, no inside channel to what Amazon Web Services is thinking. But I don’t think a protest by AWS against Microsoft's win of the JEDI cloud computing contract is a 100-percent certainty.

Many are assuming that AWS will file a protest. That logic says they were seen as the favorite and the ceiling is so huge at $10 billion that they have nothing to lose by protesting.

Yes, the loss must sting, just like the Houston Astros are licking their wounds today after losing to the Washington Nationals in the World Series.

But there is one thing to consider regarding AWS: I can only find one protest that they filed. One.

That was in April 2018. It involved a solicitation that seemed to dictate the U.S. Military Academy in West Point use Google as the infrastructure for an email system.

That solicitation was pulled back and the AWS protest was dismissed. West Point said a typo in the solicitation caused the confusion. They actually were doing market research on GSuite and hadn't decided on a contract. That was the end of it and makes me lean toward AWS not protesting.

Plus, JEDI isn’t a required contract. I’m sure the Defense Department's chief information officer will push contract across DOD, but that will have it limits. As several executives have told me and others, where’s the mandate?

Few know what the plan is or what will be migrated first. Real spending on the cloud projects lies with the service branches and they’ll have choices.

Microsoft will need to market the hell out of JEDI. I also think AWS’ strength and confidence in its market position might just outweigh the benefits of a protest. Why waste the resources when you can be out there talking to customers?

The other thing to consider is that the vast majority of bid protests are resolved in favor of the winning company. It's an uphill battle that might not be worth it in the end.

But it'll probably be several weeks before I'll know whether I’m right.

Because this is a large defense contract, AWS is likely going through the enhanced debriefing process that was set up by the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.

The 2018 NDAA added more steps to the debriefing process, including allowing the losing bidder to submit written questions and receive written responses from the government before the debriefing is considered closed.

That enhanced debriefing process gives bidders two business days after the initial debriefing to submit follow-on questions. The agency then has five business days to respond to the questions.

The debriefing is considered closed once the agency submits its written answers. Only then does the 10-day clock start ticking. I wrote about a protest earlier this year where the award was made Jan. 31 but the protest wasn’t filed until March 5. That’s almost five weeks.

The purpose of the enhanced debriefings is to improve the quality of the information shared in a debriefing and perhaps lower the need for companies to file protests.

We may not know for some time whether AWS files a protest. We could be looking at late November before we know for sure if that holds..

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Oct 31, 2019 at 11:49 AM


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