A federal judge on Thursday blocked the Pentagon from moving forward with its massive cloud program while a lawsuit from Amazon Web Services, or AWS, is heard to determine whether President Donald Trump exerted undue influence in the decision to award it to Microsoft.
Judge Patricia E. Campbell-Smith granted Amazon’s motion for a preliminary injunction, stopping work on the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, cloud “until further notice of the court.” The parties have until Feb. 27 to propose redactions to Campbell-Smith’s decision.
After the JEDI contract went to Microsoft in October, Amazon sued the Defense Department. The suit argues that the Pentagon made numerous errors in awarding the contract; it also states that Amazon is technically the far superior enterprise cloud provider, especially for hosting high-value secret and top-secret data. For instance, one of the requirements for JEDI is that the provider be able to host “top secret” data at Impact Level 6. Amazon has been hosting data at that level for the government for years. In December, Microsoft was awarded temporary, 90-day accreditation to host data at Impact Level 6.
The nonprofit group Protect Democracy this week filed an amicus brief on Amazon’s behalf, arguing that “Amazon has plausibly alleged that President Trump interfered in the DOD procurement process to advance his own interests, which would violate his Article II duties under the Faithful Execution Clause. And Amazon has plausibly alleged that President Trump has engaged in a pattern of retaliating against Amazon and The Washington Post, which could violate the First Amendment.”
The nonprofit group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, this week filed a similar brief, saying that “the President’s reported pattern of attempts to influence the contracting decisions of multiple federal agencies suggests a disregard for the requirements of federal ethics and procurement law, and bolsters the conclusion that AWS’s allegations of improper interference here are based upon a ‘reasonable factual predicate’ and ‘appear to be sufficiently well grounded” to warrant supplementation of the record.’”
The Defense Department, meanwhile, says that a stay in implementing JEDI, which is worth up to $10 billion over 10 years, would hurt national security. A DoD declaration to the court filed this week, written by Air Force Lt. Gen. Bradford J. Shwedo, Chief Information Officer on the Joint Staff, argues for the “importance of accelerating enterprise cloud adoption.”
Says Shwedo, “the continued absence of DOD-wide, enterprise cloud computing capability seriously impedes the military’s ability to collaborate and share information with our military services, partner nations, and the intelligence community…delivery is required before we can begin strategy and [tactics, techniques, and procedures] development,” for next-generation connected warfare concepts.
In a statement, Frank Shaw, Corporate Vice President at Microsoft Communications, said, “While we are disappointed with the additional delay we believe that we will ultimately be able to move forward with the work to make sure those who serve our country can access the new technology they urgently require. We have confidence in 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.”