DOD affirms JEDI award to Microsoft

After a reevaluation of certain aspects of the $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure solicitation, the Defense Department is sticking with its guns and giving the contract to Microsoft -- but that doesn't mean a long-running legal battle will just go away.

After a year of lawsuits, protests and scrutiny, the Pentagon has decided to re-award its $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract to Microsoft.

“The Department has completed its comprehensive re-evaluation of the JEDI cloud proposals and determined that Microsoft's proposal continues to represent the best value to the government,” according to a Defense Department news release Sept. 4.

Amazon Web Services, the runner-up in the JEDI sweepstakes, sued in the Court of Federal Claims charging that the procurement was improperly decided and possibly subject to political influence from the White House.

The Pentagon agreed to reopen a few technical aspects of the solicitation, allowing AWS and Microsoft to alter their original bids. The lawsuit was on remand while that process played out. Even though that's over, it doesn't mean that Microsoft can just get started building a cloud for DOD.

The contract is still subject to a stop-work order going back to February.

"While contract performance will not begin immediately due to the preliminary injunction...DOD is eager to begin delivering this capability to our men and women in uniform," the statement said.

AWS announced in a blog post late Friday that it was not satisfied with result of the corrective action offered by DOD and would continue to seek to overturn the award in court on the grounds that the procurement had been improperly influenced -- by President Donald Trump himself.

"While corrective action can be used to efficiently resolve protests, in reality, this corrective action changed nothing, wasted five months that could have been spent getting to the bottom of these serious concerns, and was designed solely to distract from our broader concerns and reaffirm a decision that was corrupted by the president’s self-interest.," the post read. "When we opposed the DoD’s approach to corrective action, we predicted this would happen, and it has. By continuing to delay, distract, and avoid addressing these very serious issues, the DOD is turning out to be its own worst enemy with regard to speeding things along."

The blog post looks to link the JEDI award with a pattern of "egregious" conduct, "blatant cronyism" and openly steering government contracts to vendors for political reasons. "The question we continue to ask ourselves is whether the President of the United States should be allowed to use the budget of the Department of Defense to pursue his own personal and political ends? Throughout our protest, we've been clear that we won't allow blatant political interference, or inferior technology, to become an acceptable standard," the post states.

Trump has opined openly, and on camera about hearing complaints about the JEDI contract, and has been accused, in a book by a speechwriter to former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, of telling the Pentagon chief to "screw Amazon" out of the contract.

Senior Pentagon officials have spoken about the urgency of bringing the JEDI capability online.

"JEDI Cloud is critical to safeguarding our technological advantage against those that seek to harm our nation," Lt. Gen. Bradford Shwedo, the CIO for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a court filing in separate JEDI lawsuit brought by Oracle.

This week, a federal court panel denied that Oracle protest. Oracle, which was cut from the final round of the procurement along with IBM for not meeting basic contract criteria, alleged in its lawsuit that behind the scenes, the Pentagon tailored its requirements to Amazon Web Services and that individuals who worked on or near JEDI had conflicts of interest. The panel affirmed a lower court ruling that Oracle's concerns had some validity, but weren't enough to undo the entire procurement.

This article first appeared on FCW, a Defense Systems partner site.

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