The brass knuckles are out in the dust up between Microsoft and Amazon Web Services over the $10 billion JEDI contract.
This week Amazon Web Services fired off another volley by filing a second, concurrent bid protest with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) that seeks additional clarity around the corrective action that the DoD is proposing to take on the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract, which was awarded to Microsoft on Oct. 25 despite Amazon being considered the frontrunner.
Last month, a federal claims court judge granted the DoD a 120-period to reconsider aspects of the procurement challenged by Amazon's original protest over how the contract was first awarded. In February, a U.S. judge granted a preliminary injunction to temporarily pause Microsoft from working on the JEDI contract.
Amazon has long contended that President Donald Trump's dislike of Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos played a role in Microsoft winning the contract. Trump tipped his hand that he was following the contract process in July when he said to reporters that he "never had something where more people are complaining." Trump cited complaints by Microsoft, Oracle and IBM. IBM and Oracle were previously eliminated from the contract process, which they both protested, but lost, in court.
"Since we filed our protest, we’ve been clear in our intent: we don’t think the JEDI award was adjudicated fairly, we think political interference blatantly impacted the award decision, and we’re committed to ensuring the evaluation receives a fair, objective, and impartial review," said Amazon's Drew Herdner, vice president of worldwide communications, in a blog on Friday. "To be clear, we won’t back down on this front regardless of whether Microsoft chooses to try to bully its way to an unjust victory.
"We also won’t allow blatant political interference or inferior technology to become an acceptable standard. We have great respect and admiration for those who serve and are honored to support the DoD, but we will not sit idle nor apologize for doing what we believe is right, fair, and just.
The DoD has amended the JEDI solicitation for a part of the contract that pertains to a pricing scenario for online cloud storage that allows both AWS and Microsoft to submit revised proposals. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims had ruled that the DoD's evaluation of that part of the contract didn't comply with the requirements that were originally laid out.
"As the DoD was defining the new storage requirement, they didn’t clearly define it," Herdner said. "We asked multiple times for clarification, to which the DoD was unresponsive. It left us no option but to appeal to the agency to clarify it. We hope this will be resolved soon. And, that’s totally up to the DoD to solve. This could have been easily avoided if they had chosen to be responsive in any of the multiple requests we’ve made in the last two weeks. We simply sought clarity on the requirement—nothing more."
AWS took exception with other aspects of how the contract was awarded in its first bid protest with the Court of Federal Claims.
Herdner's blog was seemingly a counter punch to one posted on Thursday by Microsoft's Frank Shaw, who is corporate vice president of communications. Among other items, Shaw accused AWS of "keeping vital technology from the men and women in uniform – the very people Amazon says it supports."
"Amazon’s complaint is confidential, so we don’t know what it says," Shaw said. "However, if their latest complaint mirrors the arguments Amazon made in court, it’s likely yet another attempt to force a re-do because they bid high and lost the first time.
"The only thing that’s certain about Amazon’s new complaint is that it will force American warfighters to wait even longer for the 21st-century technology they need – perpetuating Amazon’s record of putting its own interests ahead of theirs."
On Friday, Herdner said Microsoft had "published multiple self-righteous and pontificating blog posts that amount to nothing more than misleading noise intended to distract those following the protest."
"Microsoft wants us to just be quiet and go away," Herdner said. "But, as we’ve said all along, we believe it’s critical for the DoD, the country, and future U.S. Government procurements that agencies make decisions free from political retribution and interference, and based fairly and on the facts."