The JEDI contract award process might never be done. Following legal challenges from Amazon after the Pentagon's massive, $10 billion cloud contract was awarded to Microsoft in October, the Pentagon indicated in court documents last night that it wishes to reconsider the award.
It's just the latest plot twist in an epic government procurement saga.
Here's what we know. The Pentagon filing is based on Amazon's complaints about the technical part of the deal only. Amazon has said that it believes political interference influenced the awarding of the contract. However, the cloud computing giant also believes it beat Microsoft on the technical merits in a majority of instances required in the request for proposals issued by the Pentagon.
In fact, sources told TechCrunch, "AWS’s protest identified evaluation errors, clear deficiencies and unmistakable bias in six of the eight evaluation factors."
Obviously Amazon was happy to hear this news. "We are pleased that the DoD has acknowledged ‘substantial and legitimate' issues that affected the JEDI award decision, and that corrective action is necessary," a spokesperson stated.
"We look forward to complete, fair, and effective corrective action that fully insulates the re-evaluation from political influence and corrects the many issues affecting the initial flawed award."
As would expect, Microsoft thinks that the DoD made the correct choice, and believes the review will bear that out. "Over two years, the DoD reviewed dozens of factors and sub factors and found Microsoft equal or superior to AWS on every factor. We remain confident that Microsoft’s proposal was technologically superior, continues to offer the best value, and is the right choice for the DoD,” Microsoft VP of communications Frank Shaw said.
The court granted the Pentagon 120 days to review the results again, but indicated it could take longer. In the meantime, the project is at a standstill.
On Friday, the court issued a ruling that Amazon was likely to succeed on its complaint on merit, and that could have been the impetus of this latest action by the Pentagon.
While the political influence piece might not be overtly part of this filing, it does lurk in the background. The president has made it clear that he doesn't like Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post. As we wrote last year:
Amazon, for instance, could point to Jim Mattis’ book where he wrote that the president told the then Defense Secretary to “screw Bezos out of that $10 billion contract.” Mattis says he refused, saying he would go by the book, but it certainly leaves the door open to a conflict question.
As we previously reported, AWS CEO Andy Jassy stated at a press event at AWS re:Invent in December that the company believed there was political bias at play in the decision-making process.
"What I would say is that it’s fairly obvious that we feel pretty strongly that it was not adjudicated fairly,” he said. He added, “I think that we ended up with a situation where there was political interference. When you have a sitting president, who has shared openly his disdain for a company, and the leader of that company, it makes it really difficult for government agencies, including the DoD, to make objective decisions without fear of reprisal.”
The story has been updated with a comment from Microsoft. We have requested comment from DoD and will update the story should they respond.