News & Insights for the AI Journey|Sunday, December 15, 2019
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JEDI Saga Continues as AWS Seeks Contract Details 

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The protest by Amazon Web Services of a $10 billion Pentagon cloud contract to Microsoft is expected to touch off another round of deployment delays as cloud competitors use legal and bureaucratic channels to decipher how the controversial winner-take-all contract was awarded.

AWS (NASDAQ: AMZN) confirmed reports last week that it will protest the Defense Department’s decision in October to award the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract to cloud rival Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT). AWS filed a formal protest of the JEDI award with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

Federal Times first reported the AWS protest.

“AWS is uniquely experienced and qualified to provide the critical technology the U.S. military needs, and remains committed to supporting the DoD’s modernization efforts,” the cloud giant said in a statement confirming reports of its cloud contact protest. “We also believe it’s critical for our country that the government and its elected leaders administer procurements objectively and in a manner that is free from political influence.”

Referring to allegations of White House meddling in the JEDI procurement, AWS added: “Numerous aspects of the JEDI evaluation process contained clear deficiencies, errors, and unmistakable bias — and it’s important that these matters be examined and rectified.”

Oracle (NYSE: ORCL) renewed its earlier pre-award protest of the JEDI contracting process, filing an appeal earlier this month after its lawsuit before the U.S. Court of Claims was dismissed.

Those legal maneuvers are expected to further slow the rollout of a tiered DoD cloud capable of handling classified, sensitive and unclassified data. Microsoft supplies most of DoD’s office software.

The AWS protest is expected to initiate an internal Pentagon review during which JEDI competitors can gather additional information about the procurement process. “The best way to get more information on why you lost is to protest," David Berteau, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council, told reporters after the JEDI award to Microsoft.

Among the details that can be gleaned by a competitor are whether they lost based on price, technical expertise or past performance.

Before the JEDI contract became immersed in partisan politics, AWS was considered the front-runner, largely on the basis of its earlier cloud contract with the CIA.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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