JEDI: Why we will continue to protest this politically corrupted contract award
Earlier today, the DoD announced it had concluded its corrective action and affirmed its prior JEDI contract award to Microsoft. Taking corrective action should have provided the DoD an opportunity to address the numerous material evaluation errors outlined in our protest, ensure a fair and level playing field, and ultimately, expedite the conclusion of litigation. Unfortunately, the DoD rejected that opportunity.
When the DoD announced its plans for corrective action in March, we objected because it was clear this was nothing more than a “do-over” for Microsoft to fix its non-compliant proposal. Given the DoD did not agree to meaningfully review the many evaluation flaws outlined in our protest, we said the corrective action was likely to result in another contract award based on politics and improper influence and not based on the relative strengths of the two offerings. That is exactly where we find ourselves today, with the DoD’s re-evaluation nothing more than an attempt to validate a flawed, biased, and politically corrupted decision. It’s also important to point out that the DoD cited price as a major factor in the previous decision. This time, AWS offered a lower cost by several tens of millions of dollars. The DoD’s decision to intentionally ignore the clear cost benefits offered by AWS, reinforces the fact that this corrective action was never meant to be fair.
As we continue to pursue a fair and impartial review, and ensure our country gets the best possible technical capability to protect itself, we wanted to reflect on how and why we’ve arrived at this point.
AWS is honored to support our nation’s military, and extremely proud of our role in helping U.S. government customers achieve mission success. Today, over 6,500 government agencies rely on the AWS Cloud to achieve an unmatched level of security, agility, innovation, and reliability. It is our commitment to supporting the U.S. military, and our experience earning trust and helping deliver transformational results within the Intelligence Community, that led us to bid on JEDI. We felt strongly then, just as we do now, that our technology is uniquely suited to help our military maintain an edge on the digital battlefield of today, and tomorrow.
We also remain grounded in the facts: AWS is the clear leader in cloud computing, and by any objective measure, has superior technology. AWS has more services, and more features within those services, than any other cloud provider—by a large amount. AWS provides a more secure and more operationally performant offering, and remains the only cloud provider accredited to support the full range of U.S. government data classifications. AWS also has a much broader ecosystem of ISV and SaaS partners whose software runs on AWS, so customers can use the same software they’ve been running on-premises, in the cloud. We welcome competition, but any objective, apples-to-apples assessment based purely on the offerings, clearly leads to a different conclusion than the DoD made.
When the DoD announced the initial JEDI contract award on the evening of Friday, October 25, 2019, we tried repeatedly to seek clarity around the evaluation errors that affected all six technical factors. We tried doing this through the debriefing process, which is a fundamental part of government procurements. Our team worked around the clock that weekend in order to meet the DoD’s deadline for responses and submitted 265 questions, only to see the DoD refuse to provide a single meaningful response. Most of these questions remain unanswered nearly a year later.
Throughout the litigation, we have grown more confident in our position as more information has come to light (some of this information has been made public, other parts not yet). In February, the Court of Federal Claims stopped performance on JEDI. The Court determined AWS’s protest had merit, and that Microsoft’s proposal likely failed to meet a key solicitation requirement and was likely deficient and ineligible for award. Our protest detailed how pervasive these errors were (impacting all six technical evaluation factors), and the Judge stopped the DoD from moving forward because the very first issue she reviewed demonstrated serious flaws.
AWS remains deeply concerned that the JEDI contract award creates a dangerous precedent that threatens the integrity of the federal procurement system and the ability of our nation’s warfighters and civil servants to access the best possible technologies. Others have raised similar concerns around a growing trend where defense officials act based on a desire to please the President, rather than do what’s right. This was illustrated by the refusal to cooperate with the DoD Inspector General, which sought to investigate allegations that the President interfered in the JEDI procurement in order to steer the award away from AWS. Instead of cooperating, the White House exerted a “presidential communications privilege” that resulted in senior DoD officials not answering questions about JEDI communications between the White House and DoD. This begs the question, what do they have to hide?
The ongoing dismissal of inspectors general across our government, civil servants who are entrusted to ensure ethical conduct, is another worrying trend. The President has removed perceived political threats from their roles simply for doing their jobs, including demoting the Acting DoD Inspector General just days before the release of the JEDI Report. A similar pattern has emerged within the DoD as senior military leadership cannot exercise their sound judgment without facing retribution. Even those who serve our country in the pursuit of justice and fairness under the law, have been sidelined by the President in favor of blatant cronyism. Likewise, the President has become emboldened of late in flaunting his role influencing government contracts for politically motivated reasons. When discussing a recent U.S. Navy award that selected a Wisconsin-based firm to build a new $5.5 billion frigate, President Trump stated, “I hear the maneuverability is one of the big factors that you were chosen for the contract…the other is your location in Wisconsin, if you want to know the truth.”
There is a recurring pattern to the way President Trump behaves when he’s called out for doing something egregious: first he denies doing it, then he looks for ways to push it off to the side, to distract attention from it and delay efforts to investigate it (so people get bored and forget about it). And then he ends up doubling down on the egregious act anyway. On JEDI, President Trump reportedly ordered former Secretary Mattis to “screw’” Amazon, blatantly interfered in an active procurement, directed his subordinate to conduct an unorthodox “review” prior to a contract award announcement and then stonewalled an investigation into his own political interference. “Corrective action” was used as a way to halt our litigation, delay further investigations and incorrectly give the appearance that only one issue needed to be fixed while giving the impression that the DoD was actually going to fix something. While corrective action can be used to efficiently resolve protests, in reality, this corrective action changed nothing, wasted five months that could have been spent getting to the bottom of these serious concerns, and was designed solely to distract from our broader concerns and reaffirm a decision that was corrupted by the President’s self-interest. When we opposed the DoD’s approach to corrective action, we predicted this would happen, and it has. By continuing to delay, distract, and avoid addressing these very serious issues, the DoD is turning out to be its own worst enemy with regard to speeding things along.
We strongly disagree with the DoD’s flawed evaluation and believe it’s critical for our country that the government and its elected leaders administer procurements objectively and in a manner that is free from political influence. The question we continue to ask ourselves is whether the President of the United States should be allowed to use the budget of the Department of Defense to pursue his own personal and political ends? Throughout our protest, we’ve been clear that we won’t allow blatant political interference, or inferior technology, to become an acceptable standard. Although these are not easy decisions to make, and we do not take them lightly, we will not back down in the face of targeted political cronyism or illusory corrective actions, and we will continue pursuing a fair, objective, and impartial review.
For another objective review, Gartner recently named AWS Leader in the Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service for the tenth consecutive year.
2020 Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure & Platform Services
Gartner, Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure and Platform Services, Raj Bala, Bob Gill, Dennis Smith, David Wright, Kevin Ji, 1 September 2020 – Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product, or service depicted in its research publications and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.
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