More delays could emperil JEDI, DOD suggests

If Amazon Web Services is permitted to litigate its bias claims, the lengthy and complex process “might bring the future of the JEDI Cloud procurement into question,” an information paper stated.

If the Court of Federal Claims upholds Amazon Web Services’ claim that the $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract was politically influenced by the Trump administration, the Defense Department is signaling that it may have to find another way to deliver the cloud services it needs.

DOD's Office of the Chief Information Officer told Congress in an "information paper" sent Jan. 28 that the agency is expecting a "significant ruling" in the coming weeks on whether AWS’ claims will be litigated in the ongoing case.

If AWS is permitted to litigate its bias claims, the DOD cautioned, that means deposing former DOD and White House senior officials – possibly including, though this is not mentioned in the document, former President Donald Trump. The required discovery motions would “be complex and elongate the timeline significantly. The prospect of such a lengthy litigation process might bring the future of the JEDI Cloud procurement into question,” the paper stated.

Microsoft won the JEDI contract in October 2019. Amazon Web Services challenged the award, and DOD is under a stop work order until the protest is decided.

The DOD CIO information paper stresses that the department's need for enterprise cloud is urgent. "We remain fully committed to meeting this requirement -- we hope through JEDI -- but this requirement transcends any one procurement, and we will be prepared to ensure it is met one way or another."

The government's current position, according to court filings from December 2020, is that AWS waived its allegations of bias when it agreed to participate in a corrective action that allowed AWS and Microsoft to revise aspects of their bids. Microsoft was re-awarded the contract after that review, and AWS resumed its lawsuit.

If the bias allegations are allowed to stand, President Joe Biden's Justice Department would have to defend the Trump administration's conduct in the procurement in order to continue with the case.

Russell Goemaere, a Pentagon spokesperson, said in a statement that DOD, "has consistently stated in all court filings, and public discussions, that the allegation of improper influence is not supported. The DoD IG considered these allegations and found no evidence that improper influence occurred or affected the procurement process or award decision."

The Justice Department declined to comment about whether it would continue to defend the Trump administration's conduct in the JEDI procurement.

Acting DOD CIO John Sherman said, in language echoing the information paper, that the DOD needs the capabilities it bought with the JEDI contract.

"Regardless of the JEDI Cloud litigation outcome, the Department continues to have an urgent, unmet requirement for enterprise-wide, commercial cloud services for all three classification levels that also works at the tactical edge, on scale," Sherman said in an emailed statement.

This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to Defense Systems.

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