Why the Pentagon’s JEDI Saga Is Far From Over

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The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure procurement may be grounded until at least February, according to a new timeline agreed to by the government and Amazon Web Services. 

On September 4, the Defense Department awarded Microsoft its Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure  cloud contract for a second time, concluding—amid a legal protest filed by Amazon Web Services—that Microsoft’s bid again represented “the best value to the government.”

Yet JEDI remains under a court-ordered injunction first issued in April, shelving any work under the contract until AWS’ protest is resolved. On Sept. 15, the Defense Department submitted—under seal—the source selection documentation it used to re-award the JEDI contract to Microsoft. The move formally concludes nearly five months of time that the Pentagon requested from Federal Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith to correct the JEDI procurement, and represents a significant step to potentially lifting the injunction.

“If there is an injunction imposed by the court, nothing can move forward,” Stan Soloway, president and CEO of Celero Strategies and a former Defense Department acquisition official, told Nextgov. “But, even if a protest is still in play, theoretically the government could declare an urgent need and proceed.”

Within hours of the JEDI award, AWS announced it planned to further protest the contract, and a separate Sept. 15 court filing by the government—following a conference of each party’s attorneys—formally indicated AWS’ desired intent to continue the protest. What exactly will make up its protest is likely to depend on a post-award debriefing from the Pentagon. Under Federal Acquisition Regulation, the government is obligated to provide a debriefing “to the maximum extent practicable” to an offeror regarding “the basis for the selection decision and contract award.” Post-award debriefings usually occur within days of an award. 

“The government is in the process of completing the source selection activities as required under the FAR,” Pentagon spokesman Russell Goemaere told Nextgov in a statement. 

AWS’ Sept. 4 statement foreshadows some of its grievances, including continued issues with pricing and questioning the “corrective action” the Pentagon took in amending the JEDI procurement over the past five months. 

Attorneys for the Pentagon and AWS have already agreed to a schedule of events moving forward that could hold work under the contract until at least February 2021. AWS must file its amended complaint by Oct. 9, and its renewed motion for further discovery to supplement the record by Oct. 23. The court expects to resolve new motions by Dec. 4. If the judge decides not to grant AWS’ request for further discovery, the parties would exchange filings for judgment until Feb. 5, after which time Patricia-Smith could render a decision in the case. The timeline isn’t firm: If AWS prevails in additional discovery, it could add months to the case. 

AWS’ blog post makes clear the company isn’t dropping its claims of political interference in the contracting process by President Trump, though Campbell-Smith has yet to address those complaints. She did rule in favor of AWS regarding potential evaluation errors by the Defense Department and granted the current injunction to prevent work under the contract.

The JEDI procurement was designed to be the Pentagon’s war cloud, providing a common and connected global IT fabric at all classification levels for its many customer agencies and warfighters. However, the contract is approximately two years behind schedule after numerous delays and several legal challenges. Soloway said JEDI is not a contract likely to end quietly.

“This is a bizarre case to say the least,” Soloway said. “Never seen anything quite like it.”