A heavily redacted version of Amazon Web Services' latest protest against Microsoft getting the lucrative Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud computing contract has been unsealed. Unsurprisingly, AWS reckons the decision is total ███.
The decade-long $10bn single-vendor contract was awarded to Microsoft in 2019. AWS had been the presumed front-runner for the US military's move to the cloud and, after losing out, has been challenging the decision via the medium of lawyers.
The US Department of Defense conducted a re-evaluation over the summer and opted to stick with Microsoft, further enraging team Bezos.
In a complaint [PDF] filed on 23 October and unsealed yesterday, AWS alleged: "DoD's re-award to Microsoft compounds its prior errors to validate a flawed and politically corrupted decision." It went on to point out that where Microsoft might have had a price advantage before ("based on its noncompliant technical approach"), AWS's proposal now required fewer taxpayer dollars.
"Faced with the untenable combination of Microsoft's technical inferiority and now-higher price, DoD manipulated its evaluations to a degree that belies any facade of rationality," AWS continued.
AWS went on to highlight technical areas where it felt the DoD had "arbitrarily minimized" the company's "advantages", such as its Nitro hypervisor while accusing the DoD of ignoring where Microsoft was less than stellar: "In particular, DoD ignored Microsoft's ██████████████████████████████. This failure should have earned Microsoft a deficiency that rendered Microsoft ineligible for award."
We can only speculate what that deficiency might be. We'd welcome your suggestions in the comments below.
However, the AWS protest saved its greatest ire for the current US administration and US President Donald Trump.
"These patent errors alone," thundered the protest, "warrant invalidating the re-award. But these errors did not occur in a vacuum. Instead, they can best be explained as the latest manifestation of President Trump's determination to steer the JEDI Contract away from AWS."
AWS added: "The President's interference in DoD's procurement decisions has been pervasive. It has destroyed the requisite impartial discharge of the procurement process by causing DoD procurement personnel to abandon their responsibility to apply the RFP's stated evaluation criteria reasonably, consistently, and fairly."
After noting "President Trump has made no secret of his deep personal dislike for Mr. Bezos, Amazon, and the Washington Post, or of his express desire to harm them," AWS stated Trump's alleged campaign against it "had its intended effect."
Even the ruling earlier this year was not free from influence, it claimed: "Faced with the Court's February 2020 ruling that AWS was likely to succeed on the merits, DoD undertook corrective action amidst an increasingly corrupt environment in which President Trump has made clear that anyone in the federal government who does not do his bidding will face the most severe career reprisals."
The written protest ended with AWS asking that the court continue to prevent the DoD and Microsoft kicking things off on JEDI, declare the "DoD's rejection of AWS's proposal and re-award to Microsoft is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law," and have the DoD to both reopen discussions and re-evaluate the proposals.
And, as well awarding AWS its proposal costs, the company also demanded the court "direct [the] DoD to replace the Source Selection Team responsible for the reevaluation of proposals or, in the alternative, responsible for reopening discussions with Microsoft and AWS, soliciting and reevaluating revised proposals, and making a new best value decision."
Microsoft's Frank Shaw, corporate veep of comms, said of the unsealed complaint: "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. 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."
Shaw added: "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.”
President Trump is due to depart the White House in the next month. The JEDI spat, however, seems set to run quite a bit longer. ®