AWS will ask court to pause work on JEDI during protest

The Amazon Web Services office in Houston, Texas. (Wikimedia Commons/Tony Webster)

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Amazon Web Services is planning to ask a federal court for an injunction to stop any substantial work under the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract until its protest of the contract award is settled.

Lawyers for AWS will motion the U.S. Court of Federal Claims for a “temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction to prevent the issuance of substantive task orders under the contract,” which went to Microsoft, according to a joint status report published Monday. If granted, the motion would prevent any meaningful work to be done under the potential $10 billion contract until the lawsuit is settled.

The Department of Defense and Microsoft previously agreed to hold off on starting any major work until Feb. 11. But that would be the latest DOD is willing to wait “given the United States’ consistent position that the services to be procured under the Contract are urgently needed in support of national security,” says the joint status report, which was signed by AWS, Microsoft and the DOD.

Because that deadline is less than a month away, all parties involved have agreed to an expedited schedule to rule on the request. AWS will file its official motion to delay work on Jan. 24. Then DOD and Microsoft would need to file their responses asking the court to deny the motion by Feb. 3. The court says it would rule on the motion on or before that Feb. 11 start date.

The report also suggests that DOD and Microsoft could argue AWS waited too long to ask for an injunction. The parties say they “expressly reserve their right to object to the timeliness of AWS’s proposed motion.”

Concurrent to this, the court will also hear partial motions from Microsoft and DOD to dismiss AWS’s protest, a process that will extend into March and possibly longer. This means that if AWS fails in its effort to delay work, it’s very likely DOD and Microsoft will begin building out JEDI in early February, starting with the unclassified portion, and will continue to do so while the protest continues on in the court.

DOD’s attorneys will not supply an answer in response to AWS’s original complaint in the protest, as is customary. Instead, it’s looking to expedite the process and move onto filing cross-motions for judgment, typically a final stage in bid protest deliberations, the report says.

AWS alleges in its protest, filed in November and made public weeks later, that overt political pressure from the top of the Trump administration led to “egregious errors” in the Pentagon’s evaluation of bids for JEDI. The company argues that DOD repeatedly made “prejudicial errors” that were rooted in influence directly from President Donald Trump. Any one of these errors alone, AWS says, is enough to taint the entirety of DOD’s award to Microsoft.

Meanwhile, DOD and Microsoft are indeed anxious to get to work building out JEDI. They kicked off discussions about work under the contract in a series of meetings at the Pentagon in December including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and members of the Microsoft Azure and public sector teams and DOD CIO Dana Deasy and other senior defense IT leaders.

Deasy also detailed recently how the department plans to build out JEDI’s unclassified enclave over the next months, followed by the secret portion about six months later. JEDI will have 14 early adopters, he said, including the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, U.S. Transportation Command, U.S. Special Operations Command and the Navy — but he stopped short of naming the rest.

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Amazon Web Services (AWS), bid protest, Department of Defense (DOD), Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI), Microsoft, U.S. Court of Federal Claims
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