- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2019

Amazon Web Services will protest the Pentagon’s award of a $10 billion war cloud contract to Microsoft, claiming that “political influence” may have led to the decision and possibly setting up an explosive legal battle with the Trump administration.

In a statement first reported by the Federal Times, Amazon Web Services (AWS) cited “unmistakable bias” in explaining why it will file a formal legal challenge to the Defense Department’s handling of the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract, which was awarded to Microsoft last month. Microsoft’s victory came as a surprise to observers who believed Amazon was the clear frontrunner for the massive deal.

Microsoft’s win also fueled speculation that President Trump, who has publicly blasted Amazon on numerous occasions throughout his presidency, pushed the Pentagon to pick Microsoft. While the Pentagon has vehemently denied those claims, Amazon’s latest comments suggest that it believes Mr. Trump’s personal views played a role.

“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,” an AWS spokesperson told the Federal Times. “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. 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.”

The JEDI contract — which could last up to 10 years and ultimately be worth $10 billion over the life of the deal — will cover the storage and processing of huge amounts of classified Pentagon data, and with its win, Microsoft will now be linked in an unprecedented high-tech partnership with the U.S. military. The cloud, its proponents say, will enable the immediate sharing of data to battlefields around the world and would greatly aid the U.S. military in virtually everything it does.

Amazon and Microsoft were the only two companies left in the running by the time of last month’s award. Oracle Corp, which initially expressed interest in the deal, filed a lawsuit earlier this year alleging behind-the-scenes dealings between Amazon and the Pentagon. A judge last summer dismissed that lawsuit, and the Pentagon has denied giving any preferential treatment to Amazon.

IBM also initially bid on the contract.

Amid controversy that the Defense Department had favored Amazon, the president in July said he had heard “tremendous complaints” about how the JEDI contract process was being handled. Shortly after, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced an internal review.

That review concluded last month and the award to Microsoft came shortly after.

“All offerors were treated fairly and evaluated consistently with the solicitation’s stated evaluation criteria,” the Pentagon said in a statement announcing its October decision. “Prior to the award, the department conferred with the DOD Inspector General, which informed the decision to proceed.”

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