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Amazon takes the Pentagon to trial. The company claims "unmistakable bias" on the part of the government in awarding a massive military technical contract to compete with Microsoft.
This begins a new chapter in the protracted and contentious battle for the largest cloud computing contract in US history – called JEDI, for Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure – worth up to $ 10 billion over 10 years.
The Pentagon declared Microsoft the winner of JEDI on October 25, after months of delays, investigation and controversy – initially over allegations of a friendly relationship between Amazon and the Department of Defense, and later, over President Trump's public criticism of Amazon.
in a statement on Thursday, Amazon's cloudiness argued that "many aspects of the JEDI evaluation process contained clear flaws, errors and unmistakable bias – and it is important that these issues be investigated and rectified." The company appeals the contract at U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
Amazon Web Services spokesman said the company was "uniquely experienced and qualified" for the job, adding: "We also think it's critical for the country ours that the government and elected leaders manage procurement objectively and in a way that is free of political influence. "
Amazon was stunned by the loss of the JEDI contract. Microsoft's cloud business Azure has been a distant second in size to AWS, which also previously won a cloud contract with the CIA. But a former Pentagon official familiar with the JEDI deal previously told NPR that Microsoft's bid "knocked the ball out of the park."
A Microsoft representative did not immediately respond Thursday. A Department of Defense representative said: "We will not speculate on potential litigation."
At stake is a high profile project to move the US military to the cloud. The winner of JEDI would, in simplest terms, be the sole leader of the process. This company would unite Pentagon's many interconnected networks and give American war fighters access to advanced computer technology such as artificial intelligence anywhere in the world.
When JEDI bids opened in 2018, Amazon was seen as the only company that already matched the qualifications. Rival Oracle led a cantankerous lobbying campaign that accused the Pentagon and Amazon of having a cozy relationship, pointing to Department of Defense employees who had done work for AWS.
The Department of Defense, the Government Accountability Office and the Federal Claims Court considered the bidding and allowed it to proceed. Microsoft and Amazon were declared finalists. ( Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle and IBM are among recent NPR financial backers. )
Although legally unsuccessful, the opponent's objections drew attention to several legislators in Congress and ultimately Trump. The president has a known disdain for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, especially for the businessman's personal ownership of The Washington Post, whose news coverage Trump frequently criticizes.
In July, Trump told reporters he received "huge complaints about the contract with the Pentagon and with Amazon; they say there was no competitive bid." He said he would ask the Pentagon "to look into it."
Shortly after, the Department of Defense announced that new Secretary Mark Esper was pausing at JEDI – before unexpectedly declaring Microsoft the winner a few weeks later.
"The procurement process was conducted in accordance with current laws and regulations," the Department of Defense said in its October award notice. "All providers were treated fairly and evaluated consistently with the call's stated assessment criteria."
NPR's Tom Bowman contributed to this report.