A federal judge will allow the Department of Defense to reconsider certain aspects of its enterprise cloud procurement despite opposition from Amazon, according to a court decision filed April 17.
The sealed decision by Court of Federal Claims Judge Patricia E. Campbell-Smith comes in response to a DoD motion from March 12 requesting that the court allow the department to reconsider specific technical challenges Amazon made to the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract award.
Amazon opposed the motion on March 24, arguing that the corrective action proposed by the department would “preserve" Microsoft’s award. Microsoft won the controversial contract over Amazon in October 2019.
In a statement, Defense Department spokesperson Lt. Col. Robert Carver said the department was “pleased” and will initiate corrective action immediately.
“We will immediately execute the procedures outlined in the Motion for Voluntary Remand, issuing a solicitation amendment to allow for limited proposal revisions and a reevaluation of the proposals," Carver said in a statement. "We remain focused on delivering this critical capability to war fighters as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
In its March filing, DoD lawyers said that the officials wants to reevaluate the two companies’ data storage capabilities and online marketplace offerings. Amazon opposed the DoD motion because it didn’t address several other technical evaluation errors alleged by Amazon.
The decision also comes amid an order from the judge halting work on the cloud in early February.
Microsoft declined to comment. Amazon didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The aftermath of the IG report
The ruling from the court comes just days after the DoD inspector general released its final report on the JEDI cloud procurement, which found that the contract was carried out legally with a few errors, including giving Amazon access to Microsoft’s proprietary information.
However, the IG was also unable to “definitively determine" whether President Donald Trump or other White House officials interfered in the contract award because the White House declined to participate. AWS has alleged that the president’s distaste for Amazon founder Jeff Bezos influenced the award decision.
The top Democrats on the House and Senate Armed Services committee expressed frustration with the White House’s unwillingness to cooperate with the Defense Department inspector general’s investigation into the department’s ongoing procurement of an enterprise cloud.
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash, and chair of the House Armed Services Committee, in an April 17 statement that the report was “stained” by the White House.
“While the White House’s refusal to participate in the investigation makes it impossible to know if the administration attempted to interfere at a high level, the report’s findings show that DOD personnel involved in the contract proposals and award selections were not pressured by any DOD leader nor the White House,” Smith said in a statement. “That is good news.”
Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the report “troubling and incomplete.”
“The White House’s assertion of some kind of ‘communications’ privilege is part of a pattern of refusing to answer questions and ethical lapses by a president who wants no independent oversight and is firing inspectors general left and right,” Reed said in a statement April 17, referencing the firing of DoD inspector general Glenn Fine earlier this month.
The inspector general found that while DoD’s single award contract structure was legal, two DoD employees who worked on the procurement violated ethics code, though the inspector general said the violations did not affect the award.
While the contract has been the subject of great scrutiny by the Government Accountability Office and the courts, several members have also expressed numerous concerns throughout the process.
In May, the House Appropriations Committee zeroed out funding for the program in its funding bill, though the negotiated bill that ultimately became law allowed the contract to proceed because the DoD chief information officer’s office submitted a report detailing its future cloud plans.
Back in July, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas, both Republicans, wrote to Trump to intervene in the contract award because of concerns about the contract. Some members also called on the White House to halt the award until the conclusion of the inspector general investigation. In his statement, Smith signaled his approval for the Pentagon to continue to carry out the contract.
“I commend the Inspector General for completing a thorough inquiry under challenging circumstances and I look forward to the Department moving forward in development of critical cloud computing infrastructure,” Smith wrote.
Andrew Eversden covers all things defense technology for C4ISRNET. He previously reported on federal IT and cybersecurity for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, and worked as a congressional reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune. He was also a Washington intern for the Durango Herald. Andrew is a graduate of American University.