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Laurie Clarke

Reporter

The Pentagon is reconsidering decision to award Microsoft $10 billion JEDI contract

Last week, the Pentagon pitched into a pensive mood. In a court filing, it said it “wishes to reconsider” its decision to award the $10 billion JEDI cloud computing contract to Microsoft.

Amazon’s technical arguments challenging Microsoft Azure’s winning bid has provoked the Department of Defense to mull its initial decision. Amazon suggested that one of Microsoft’s price scenarios was not likely to be technically feasible.

Earlier in March, US Court of Federal Claims Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith – who previously halted work on the contract pending the resolution of Amazon’s court appeal – said Amazon was likely to succeed on this argument in its challenge to the US Department of Defense’s decision.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has maintained from the beginning that preferential treatment swayed the decision, given President Trump’s publicly aired antipathy towards Amazon, Jeff Bezos, and Bezos’ newspaper the Washington Post.

Unsurprisingly, Microsoft thinks the Pentagon is taking a foolish course of action. “We believe the Department of Defense made the correct decision when they awarded the contract,” spokesman Frank Shaw said in a statement. “However, we support their decision to reconsider a small number of factors as it is likely the fastest way to resolve all issues and quickly provide the needed modern technology to people across our armed forces.”

AWS, on the other hand, applauded the belated introspection: “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 said in a statement. “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.”

The Pentagon has requested 120 days to reassess the award, based on issues of pricing (not whether President Trump interfered in the process).

AWS was considered the frontrunner throughout the initial contest, due to scoring a $600 million cloud services contract with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 2013, and its global dominance in the cloud infrastructure space. AWS is the only company at present with a fully authorised Impact Level 6 (clearance for handling secret documents). However, Azure is gaining on the company, receiving a 90-day provisional authorisation for Level 6 in December 2019.

In July 2019, President Trump began questioning whether the process for deciding between Amazon and Microsoft was fair, telling reporters he was getting “tremendous complaints about the contract with the Pentagon and Amazon”.

A month after the contract was awarded to Microsoft, Amazon began an appeal over the decision, saying: “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.”