Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Tuesday, September 29, 2020
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Last-Minute Court Order Halts JEDI Rollout 

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A day before the Pentagon planned to “go live” with its department-wide cloud deployment, a federal judge has ordered a pause in implementation of a hotly contested $10 billion infrastructure contract.

The ruling by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims responds to an earlier motion by Amazon Web Services (NASDAQ: AMZN) to halt work on the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract awarded to Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) last fall. AWS took the extraordinary step earlier this week of filing a separate discovery motion seeking to depose President Trump along with current and former Defense Department officials.

The last-minute ruling responds to a motion filed late last month by AWS arguing that the JEDI rollout should be halted if the contract is under protest. DoD responded that any further delays in rolling out JEDI would cost the department as much as $7 million a month, according to reports.

Microsoft vowed to press on. “While we are disappointed with the additional delay we believe that we will ultimately be able to move forward with the work to make sure those who serve our country can access the new technology they urgently require,” Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for communications, said in a statement.

Sources said the timing of the federal judge’s temporary restraining order reflected Pentagon plans to launch JEDI on Friday (February 14). Given lengthy delays in implementing the contract, including an earlier bid protest by Oracle (NYSE: ORCL), an expedited review of the AWS motions is expected.

According to an industry source familiar with the JEDI protest, the AWS motions raised enough flags about potential political interference to warrant the court order halting work on the cloud contract. The AWS discovery motion seeking to depose Trump, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and his predecessor, James Mattis, alleged that Trump ordered DoD officials to “screw Amazon” on the JEDI contract award.

Those motions “were enough for the judge [to] agree it’s worth fully examining the evidence and reaching a protest decision before DoD and Microsoft move forward on execution of the initial steps of the JEDI contract,” the source said.

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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