Court says AWS is ‘likely to succeed’ in JEDI protest

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

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A federal judge believes Amazon is “likely to succeed” in showing that the Department of Defense erred, at least in part, in how it evaluated bids for the $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract.

In a document made public Friday evening, Court of Federal Claims Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith details why she recently decided in Amazon Web Services‘ favor to order an injunction under JEDI, preventing any further work under the contract while the protest is ongoing. Campbell-Smith writes that AWS is “likely to succeed on the merits of its argument that the DOD improperly evaluated” Microsoft’s bid.

The document shows for the first time that the court may be leaning toward ruling in Amazon’s favor in the protest.

“The court considers it likely that [AWS’s] chances of receiving the award would have increased absent defendant’s evaluation error,” she wrote. She also said AWS will likely be able to show that this alleged error prejudiced and did material harm to the company’s chance of winning the contract.

Campbell-Smith’s order keys in on one specific charge in Amazon’s larger complaint. Among the several evaluation missteps it says DOD made, AWS argues that it erred in evaluating Microsoft’s proposed offering for online storage, which it calls “noncompliant.”

In a statement, Microsoft’s Frank X. Shaw emphasized that the order focuses on one lone factor out of the many DOD weighed in its decision.

“The decision disagreed with a lone technical finding by the Department of Defense about data storage under the evaluation of one sub-element of one price scenario,” said Shaw, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of communications. “We have confidence in our technology, our bid, and the professional staff at the Department of Defense. We believe that we will ultimately be able to move forward with the work. Time matters because those who serve our country urgently need access to this essential modern technology.”

A Pentagon spokesperson expressed disappointment in the ruling, but said, “We remain focused on getting this critical capability into the hands of our warfighters as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

AWS also alleges in its protest that DOD’s evaluation was influenced by President Donald Trump, who has publicly shown animosity toward Amazon and its owner, Jeff Bezos, repeatedly in the past. The company believes Trump told former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to “screw Amazon” and may have influenced current Secretary Mark Esper‘s involvement in the contract. The court did not address this part of Amazon’s case in the order.

Despite this small victory for Amazon, it will likely be quite a while before the court rules on the case. At this point, parties are still involved in early procedural matters like completing the administrative record. Once that’s done, Amazon will have a chance to amend its complaint and both parties will have a chance to make their final case to the court before oral arguments.

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Amazon Web Services (AWS), Department of Defense (DOD), Donald Trump, James Mattis, Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI), Mark Esper, Microsoft, U.S. Court of Federal Claims
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