Cloud

Why a federal court halted work on the Pentagon’s enterprise cloud

A newly unsealed court document shows that Amazon won its bid to halt work on the the Department of Defense’s multibillion-dollar Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract because the Pentagon erred in the evaluation process, not because of the political interference allegations laid out by the tech giant.

According to a court document unsealed March 6 in the U.S Court of Federal Claims, a federal judge ruled that the DoD likely incorrectly evaluated one of the storage offerings from Microsoft, who won the contract. Amazon argues that if it had been evaluated correctly, Microsoft would’ve been eliminated from the competition.

The judge wrote that Amazon is “likely to succeed on the merits of its argument" that the DoD erred in the evaluation. The document doesn’t mention the allegations by Amazon that it lost the contract due to political interference by President Donald Trump, who has a long-standing feud with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Top Pentagon officials have argued throughout the entirety of the JEDI process, which has been long-delayed, that any delay to the JEDI cloud would harm national security. The DoD made the same argument during Amazon’s protest, but the judge, Patricia E. Campbell-Smith, wrote in her injunction decision that the Pentagon’s current cloud infrastructure proves otherwise.

“The court takes seriously the national security concerns implicated by the JEDI program. But the fact that defendant is operating without the JEDI program now cuts against its argument that it cannot secure the nation if the program does not move forward immediately,” Campbell-Smith wrote. “The court does not find, under the present circumstances, that the benefits of the JEDI program are so urgently needed that the court should not review the process to ensure the integrity of the procurement.”

In both court documents and public statements, DoD officials have warned that any further delay to the JEDI cloud would lead DoD components to move ahead with their own solutions because they can’t wait for the procurement controversies to be sorted out. The DoD has also said in court documents that each month of the delay costs taxpayers $5 million to $7 million.

Amazon also argued that its business would be irreparably harmed if the contract moved forward because it would lose customers to the JEDI cloud, while Microsoft would have a competitive advantage for DoD business. While the DoD argued that Amazon’s damage wouldn’t be irreparable, Campbell-Smith wrote that the losses identified by Amazon were reasonable. Microsoft, meanwhile, objected to Amazon’s argument citing AWS’ three-month delay in asking for the injunction after filing its protest in November.

“The court agrees that the delay weakens plaintiff’s claim of irreparable harm, but does not find that it invalidates plaintiff’s position altogether,” Campbell-Smith wrote. “Whatever harm defendant [DoD] and intervenor-defendant [Microsoft] may have suffered as a result of its delay, plaintiff has demonstrated that it will continue to suffer irreparable harm between now and the time that the merits of this dispute are finally resolved.”

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