Lawyers for Amazon’s cloud computing arm, Amazon Web Services, filed a 103-page document in U.S. federal claims court to protest the U.S. Department of Defense awarding its $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract to Microsoft.
Citing intervention by President Donald Trump and his personal vendetta against Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos, the filing calls for the termination of the award and a re-evaluation of the JEDI proposals without any “improper influence.”
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment. A representative for the DOD was not available by deadline.
In October, the defense department announced Microsoft would receive a 10-year cloud contract to modernize the military’s computer systems.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) reportedly controls 45% of the cloud computing market and was already working with the Central Intelligence Agency, making it the favorite among the vendors that had submitted proposals and leading an Amazon spokesperson to say the company was “surprised” by the decision.
According to the filing, however, a review of the DOD’s assessment shows “egregious errors on nearly every evaluation factor,” such as glossing over gaps between AWS and Microsoft, ignoring parts of AWS’ technical proposal, and overlooking failures by Microsoft to comply with the stated requirements in the request for proposal.
Kevin Mullen of Morrison Foerster, the attorney of record for AWS, wrote in the filing that these errors are the result of “improper pressure from [Trump], who launched repeated public and behind-the-scenes attacks to steer the JEDI contract away from AWS to harm his perceived political enemy—Jeffrey P. Bezos,” in part because Trump is angry about negative coverage in The Washington Post, which Bezos owns.
Citing a number of Trump’s statements and actions going back to February 2016, as well as his “prolific tweets,” the filing said the DOD’s errors are “hard to understand and impossible to assess separate and apart from the president’s repeatedly expressed determination to, in the words of the president himself, ‘screw Amazon,’” including:
- Directing then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis to “screw Amazon” out of the contract in the summer of 2018, per a book by Mattis’ former chief speechwriter
- A July 2018 tweet from Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., that said Bezos and Amazon had engaged in “shady and potentially corrupt practices … [which] may come back to bite them”
- And a July 2019 tweet from Trump, which called the JEDI contract the “Bezos bailout”
“Each of these messages came while DOD was evaluating the JEDI proposals and it would have been virtually impossible for anyone involved in JEDI to ignore them,” the filing said.
What’s more, the filing noted that Trump intervened in the final phases of the two-year JEDI analysis by directing Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to conduct an independent examination in August 2019.
“The blatant, inexplicable errors in DOD’s award to Microsoft make plain that President Trump’s message had its intended and predictable effect,” Mullen wrote.
According to AWS, that means the DOD failed to meet is obligation in applying the evaluation criteria. And that, in turn, made the offerings from AWS and Microsoft appear on par with one another, which is not the case, the filing said.
“Rarely, if ever, has a president engaged in such a blatant and sustained effort to direct the outcome of a government procurement—let alone because of personal animus and political objectives,” the filing said. “Our laws reject this unfair influence and bias into the government procurement process and this court should not sanction such behavior or its intended result in this case.”
As a result, the filing said the contract should be terminated and the proposals reevaluated.
“We have confidence in the qualified staff at the Department of Defense, and we believe the facts will show they ran a detailed, thorough and fair process in determining the needs of the warfighter were best met by Microsoft,” a Microsoft spokesperson said. “We’ve worked hard to continually innovate over the past two years to create better, differentiated offerings for our customer.”