Amazon’s JEDI Protest Centers on Trump

By Frank Konkel

November 24, 2019

It appears President Donald Trump will be a central figure in Amazon’s legal protest against the Defense Department’s October decision to award its massive Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract to rival Microsoft.

On Friday, Amazon filed a legal protest in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, alleging politics wrongfully influenced the Pentagon’s decision to award Microsoft the JEDI contract, which could be worth up to $10 billion over the next decade.

In the lawsuit, filed under seal, Amazon notified the court it intends to use four videos as exhibits, including two featuring Trump making negative remarks about Amazon. Another video features Fox News host Tucker Carlson asking Trump in July to stop the Pentagon from giving the contract to Amazon.

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,” an Amazon spokesperson told Nextgov, reiterating a statement the company provided in early November upon announcing its intent to file the lawsuit. “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."

Amazon and Microsoft were the last two companies vying for JEDI after a lengthy contracting process that has already featured three legal protests—one from IBM and two from Oracle—though bids from the latter two companies did not meet the Defense Department’s threshold for evaluation.

JEDI is considered one of the Pentagon’s most important contracts in years and through it, officials hope to link together worldwide military systems at all classification levels from various military departments into a single, unified architecture. The contract has generated significant controversy, with Trump wading into the battle over the summer, saying he was “looking into” JEDI after hearing complaints from Microsoft, IBM and Oracle.

In a statement, a Microsoft spokesperson said the company was prepared to begin work under JEDI, though it is unclear how the lawsuit will impact the contract. On Friday, Microsoft filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit, giving it an opportunity to participate in court proceedings.

We’re ready to get to work so the men and women in uniform who serve our country can access the critical new technology they urgently require,” the Microsoft spokesperson said. “We have confidence in the qualified staff at the Department of Defense, and we believe the facts will show they ran a detailed, thorough and fair process in determining the needs of the warfighter were best met by Microsoft.”

Pentagon officials have repeatedly defended the integrity of the JEDI award. On Oct. 29, Pentagon tech chief Dana Deasy told Senate lawmakers the decision wasn’t influenced by Trump’s personal politics or other outsiders.

By Frank Konkel // Frank Konkel is Nextgov’s executive editor. He writes about the intersection of government and technology. Frank began covering tech in 2013 upon moving to the Washington, D.C., area after getting his start in journalism working at local and state issues at daily newspapers in his home state of Michigan. Frank was born and raised on a dairy farm and graduated from Michigan State University.

November 24, 2019