We all knew Amazon wouldn’t take losing the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract lying down. Now—just weeks after the government awarded the $10 billion project to Microsoft—the company’s taking the first step to push back against what it calls “unmistakable bias” in the Pentagon’s decision process.
The tech giant has filed a notice to protest under seal with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims citing its plans to challenge the outcome according to multiple reports. Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy first announced the news at a company meeting Thursday, per the Federal Times, and the company later confirmed it submitted paperwork last week.
“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,” an AWS spokesperson told Gizmodo.
Now usually I take PR spiel with a grain of salt, but, in this case, I think that statement pretty much sums the issue up. The JEDI contract aims to bring cloud computing infrastructure to the Department of Defense, and Amazon remained a clear frontrunner throughout most of the yearslong deliberations given its experience and significant market share (particularly when compared to competitors like Microsoft, Google, and Oracle). Several competitors even argued the contract appeared to be written with the company in mind.
But, Amazon is also run by Jeff Bezos, a man who our president really, really doesn’t like. Likely because he owns the Washington Post, which has run some less than flattering coverage of this administration, but honestly it’s never taken much to earn Donald Trump’s (typically furiously tweeted) ire.
Though federal acquisitions law prevents politicians from thumbing the scales with these kinds of contract awards, Trump and other administration officials have been outspoken in their opposition to Amazon securing the project. Last summer, the president retweeted a link to a Fox News segment that called the JEDI contract the “Bezos Bailout.” In a recent book, a speechwriter for former defense secretary Jim Mattis, Guy Snodgrass, claimed that Trump tried to convince Mattis to “screw” Amazon out of the deal.
AWS appears to reference this controversy directly in its statement: “We also believe it’s critical for our country that the government and its elected leaders administer procurements objectively and in a manner that is free from political influence.”
In July, competitor Oracle also alleged a sprawling, Bezos-led “conspiracy” (and you know how much Trump loves his conspiracy theories) was at play, prompting the administration to temporarily halt the process as it investigated these claims. Previous internal inquiries found no evidence of the subterfuge Oracle described, CNN reported at the time. The official Trump tapped to head the investigation, newly installed Defense Secretary Mark Esper, later recused himself from the entire JEDI decision process, as his son worked at one of the private companies that initially entered a bid for the contract.
Moving forward, Amazon will need to file a formal protest in federal court further elaborating on its arguments alleging the Pentagon’s impartiality.