Amazon accuses Trump of using Pentagon cloud contract for ‘his own personal and political ends’

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President Donald Trump addresses the Economic Club of New York on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019, at the New York Hilton Midtown. (Official White House Photo / Shealah Craighead)

A newly unsealed court document reveals more details about Amazon’s strategy to get the Defense Department to overturn its award of a major cloud contract to rival Microsoft.

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims on Monday released a redacted version of Amazon’s previously sealed appeal of the award, in which the tech giant accuses President Donald Trump of influencing the Depart of Defense as it made its decision. The complaint shows the specific evidence Amazon will draw on to make that case, as the company asks the court to order the Pentagon to re-open the bidding process.

Amazon claims in the complaint that the award of the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) project is “impossible to assess separate and apart from the President’s repeatedly expressed determination to, in the words of the President himself, ‘screw Amazon.’ ”

Reading between the lines, it’s also clear that Amazon sees more at stake than one contract. The reputational cost of the Department of Defense choosing Microsoft appears to have struck a nerve with Amazon. The Seattle tech giant claims that Microsoft’s cloud offering is technically inferior to Amazon Web Services, in the complaint and previous documents submitted to the court.

Previously: Amazon touts ‘technical superiority’ over Microsoft as it seeks to reopen JEDI bidding in newly unsealed court filing

“Any meaningful review of that decision reveals egregious errors on nearly every evaluation factor, from ignoring the unique strengths of AWS’s proposal, to overlooking clear failures in Microsoft’s proposal to meet JEDI’s technical requirements, to deviating altogether from DoD’s own evaluation criteria to give a false sense of parity between the two offerors,” the complaint says. “These fundamental errors alone require reversal.”

Update: A Microsoft spokesperson provided this statement in response to the complaint’s release:

“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. We’ve worked hard to continually innovate over the past two years to create better, differentiated offerings for our customer.”

DoD surprised many in November by awarding the $10 billion, 10-year contract to Microsoft, as Amazon was long seen as the frontrunner for the project. The Pentagon was expected to announce a winner over the summer, but the timeline was delayed after Trump expressed concerns about the fairness of the process.

That’s one of several pieces of evidence Amazon cites in its complaint as the company alleges political bias improperly influenced the procurement process.

“The question is whether the President of the United States should be allowed to use the budget of DoD to pursue his own personal and political ends,” Amazon says in its complaint.

Amazon references Trump’s past comments at campaign rallies and during interviews in which he threatened to go after the company. Video of those comments was submitted to the court record and previously reported by GeekWire.

“The blatant, inexplicable errors in DoD’s award to Microsoft make plain that President Trump’s message had its intended and predictable effect,” the complaint says.

The JEDI project will migrate the Defense Department’s IT infrastructure to the cloud, creating a globally available and responsive network. It will allow the military to use advanced computing techniques like machine learning and artificial intelligence. It’s estimated to cost up to $10 billion over the next decade.

Amazon is asking the court to order the Defense Department to reevaluate the bids. The company said that the respective technical merits of the two contenders “require overturning the award of the JEDI Contract to Microsoft.”

“Basic justice requires reevaluation of proposals and a new award decision,” the complaint says.

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