Amazon Intervenes in Oracle’s JEDI Lawsuit

Cammie Czuchnicki/

A judge ruled that Amazon Web Services has standing in Oracle’s case against the Defense Department regarding its massive cloud contract.

Amazon has formally joined the latest legal battle over the right to build the Pentagon’s $10 billion war cloud.

On Wednesday, a federal judge granted a motion filed by Amazon Web Services—the company’s cloud subsidiary—to intervene in a lawsuit filed by software company Oracle alleging, among other things, conflicts of interest between the Pentagon and AWS officials around the contract.

Oracle, AWS, IBM and Microsoft all bid in October on the JEDI contract, which the Pentagon expects to award in April to a single company that will be charged with building a cloud to host, process and analyze all levels of classified and sensitive military data around the world.

In addition to the alleged conflicts of interest, Oracle’s lawsuit takes issue with the Pentagon’s decision to award the contract to a single company, similar to arguments it made in a bid protest the Government Accountability Office denied in November.

In its motion to intervene, AWS called Oracle’s allegations “meritless” and contended it has “direct and substantial economic interests at stake” in the lawsuit; the granted motion gives AWS the legal right to defend its proprietary, financial and reputational interests that could arise in the case.

"AWS has separate interests that the government has no incentive to defend, such as AWS' proprietary and financial interests in its proposal and AWS' reputational interest in defending against Oracle's meritless conflict of interest allegations," the motion states.

The court battle—which could wage on until at least March—is only the latest chapter in the Pentagon’s quest to enlist a commercial cloud provider to build a cloud that extends to the “tactical edge,” extending from data centers to troops in war zones. The JEDI cloud initiated controversy almost immediately after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his deputy, Patrick Shanahan, announced the initiative in fall 2017. Publicly, traditional defense contractors, including IBM, Microsoft and Oracle, initially positioned themselves against the Pentagon’s decision to award JEDI to a single company.  

Behind the scenes, a disinformation campaign unfolded, seemingly to undermine AWS’ chances at securing the contract. AWS has long been considered by experts to be the front-runner for the contract by virtue of its existing contract with the CIA.

Both IBM and Oracle filed pre-award bid protests over the JEDI contract, but Oracle’s was denied and IBM’s was dismissed for procedural reasons following Oracle’s lawsuit.

It is not yet clear how litigation might impact the timeline for award.