The U.S. Court of Federal Claims denied a motion from the U.S. government to dismiss a complaint from Amazon Web Services alleging undue influence on the award of the $10 billion, 10-year cloud program JEDI to Microsoft.
A federal court will allow a complaint to proceed alleging political inference by former President Donald Trump in the award of a $10 billion, 10-year cloud computing contract to Microsoft in October 2019.
Judge Patricia E. Campbell-Smith of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims issued a ruling under seal on April 28 denying a motion by the U.S. government to dismiss the claim.
That means a lawsuit by Amazon Web Services, alleging that Trump actively steered the award in the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract, can go forward. If the U.S. continues with the case, it will have to continue to argue that Trump did not act improperly during the lengthy and contested solicitation process.
Pentagon spokesman Russell Goemaere said in January, just over a week after the inauguration of President Joe Biden, that DOD "has consistently stated in all court filings, and public discussions, that the allegation of improper influence is not supported. The DOD IG considered these allegations and found no evidence that improper influence occurred or affected the procurement process or award decision."
Attorneys for AWS have argued that the decisions to award Microsoft the contract, and to reaffirm that award in September 2020 after allowing for revisions to the original bid, reflected long-standing animus of Trump toward Jeff Bezos, founder of AWS parent company Amazon.
The court at least is willing to listen to evidence to the contrary, and that could mean a change in direction for DOD's cloud plans.
"The record of improper influence by former President Trump is disturbing, and we are pleased the Court will review the remarkable impact it had on the JEDI contract award," an AWS spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "AWS continues to be the superior technical choice, the less expensive choice, and would provide the best value to the DOD and the American taxpayer."
The "prospect of such a lengthy litigation process might bring the future of the JEDI Cloud procurement into question," the unsigned DOD communication to Congress stated. "Under this scenario, the DOD CIO would reassess the strategy going forward."
According to Microsoft corporate vice president Frank X. Shaw, the ruling "changes little."
"Not once, but twice, professional procurement staff at the DOD chose Microsoft after a thorough review. Many other large and sophisticated customers make the same choice every week," Shaw said. "We've continued for more than a year to do the internal work necessary to move forward on JEDI quickly, and we continue to work with DOD, as we have for more than 40 years, on mission critical initiatives from supporting its rapid shift to remote work to the Army's IVAS," a reference to the military's $22 billion augmented reality headset program, which recently scaled up from a pilot to production.