AWS hits out at narrow scope of DoD’s planned re-evaluation of JEDI cloud contract

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has hit out at the US Department of Defense (DOD), claiming its proposed re-evaluation  of its controversial $10bn cloud contract is too narrow in scope.

The DoD’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract, which was awarded to Microsoft in October 2019, is designed to provide the government department with access to a general-purpose public cloud environment that will enable it to consolidate its on-premise datacentre estate.

The decision to award the contract to Microsoft is the subject of a legal challenge by AWS, whose CEO has previously gone on record to claim the procurement was subjected to “significant political interference”.

As previously reported by Computer Weekly, the DoD requested additional time from the US federal court this month to re-evaluate a problematic part of the contract before the legal action kicks off in earnest.

In a motion filed on 12 March 2020, the DoD asked the court to remand the case back to the Department for 120 days so that it can “reconsider certain aspects” of its decision to award the contract to Microsoft, as announced in October 2019.

Details of Amazon’s response to this request were made public on 24 March 2020, and appear to find fault with the decision of the DoD to re-evaluate part of the contract rather than the entire thing.

The DoD’s re-evaluation of the contract looks set to focus on whether or not a disagreement in how Amazon and Microsoft interpreted the phrase “highly accessible storage” may have resulted in the former party putting forward a more agreeable pricing scenario, which in turn may have contributed towards it securing the contract.

In a statement to Computer Weekly, an AWS spokesperson said the cloud giant has concerns the DoD’s re-evaluation of the contract may not go far enough, in terms of addressing the “numerous, significant flaws” that took place during the procurement process, which was beset by delays, objections and lasted two years.

“We’re pleased to see the DoD recognise the need to take corrective action, but we’re concerned that the proposed approach is not designed to provide a complete, fair and effective re-evaluation,” the AWS spokesperson said, in a statement.

It also goes on to claim that the DoD has shown no interest in addressing a number of concerns AWS has previously raised about the way the procurement was conducted, and suggests the setup is biased towards Microsoft.

“Both earlier in the adjudication processes, when we submitted 256 questions to the DoD that they refused to answer and in our protest where we outlined numerous significant flaws in the evaluation, it’s been clear that there were many problems with the DoD’s initial decision,” the statement continued.

“Instead of addressing the breadth of problems in its proposed corrective action, the DoD’s proposal focuses only on providing Microsoft a ‘do-over’ on its fatally flawed bid, while preventing AWS from adjusting its own pricing in response to the DoD’s new storage criteria.

“This attempt to gerrymander the corrective action without fixing all of the serious flaws pointed out in the complaint raises significant questions,” the statement concluded. 

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