judge gavel, cloud background

Court will hear JEDI political interference case against Trump

A complaint of political inference by former President Donald Trump in the Defense Department’s award of a massive cloud computing contract to Microsoft in 2019 may now get its day in court.

The lawsuit filed by Amazon Web Services, alleging that Trump actively steered the 10-year, $10 billion award of the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract to Microsoft, can go forward under a ruling issued by U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Patricia E. Campbell-Smith, who denied the government’s motion to dismiss the claim.

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.

DOD “has consistently stated in all court filings, and public discussions, that the allegation of improper influence is not supported,” Pentagon spokesman Russell Goemaere said just over a week after the inauguration of President Joe Biden. “The DOD [inspector general] 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."

In January, DOD's CIO told Congress that it could move on from JEDI if the litigation continues to drag on. The program has been under a stop-work order because of the lawsuit since February 2020.

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.

This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to GCN.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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