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Pentagon asks to reconsider part of JEDI cloud decision after Amazon protest

By AARON GREGG | The Washington Post | Published: March 13, 2020

The Pentagon has asked a federal court to give it 120 days to "reconsider certain aspects" of a controversial decision to award an important cloud computing contract known as JEDI to Microsoft, according to a court document made public Thursday.

Amazon is suing the Defense Department over the decision, which it claims fell in Microsoft's favor because of improper meddling by President Donald Trump. The decision comes just days after U.S. Court of Federal Claims judge Patricia Campbell-Smith sided with Amazon on a motion to halt contract performance. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract, known as JEDI, is meant to create a powerful centralized computing system through which military agencies can harness data centers and technology from a commercial tech company. The Pentagon awarded it to Microsoft in late October, spurning a bid from Amazon's market-leading cloud computing division.

The Defense Department said in the filing revealed Thursday that it "wishes to reconsider" one aspect of how it compared prices for the two competitors, which Campbell-Smith concluded had been a mistake. It also asked to reconsider its approach to online marketplaces that Defense agencies can use to select cloud-based applications.

A Pentagon spokeswoman said the evaluation process was "fair and unbiased" based on the contract's stated criteria.

"While we disagree with the Court's decision, we must address the findings in the Court's Order with the intent of ensuring our warfighters will get this urgent and critically needed technology as quickly and efficiently as possible," said Rachel VanJohnson, a spokeswoman with the Pentagon's cloud computing program office. "As such, the Department determined that the best and most efficient path forward is to conduct a re-evaluation of the proposals in order to address the Court's noted concerns."

Attorneys representing Amazon opposed the motion. An Amazon spokesman called the ruling "flawed" and said "corrective action" is needed.

"We are pleased that the DoD has acknowledged 'substantial and legitimate' issues that affected the JEDI award decision, and that corrective action is necessary," Amazon Web Services spokesman Drew Herdener said in a statement. "We look forward to complete, fair, and effective corrective action that fully insulates the re-evaluation from political influence and corrects the many issues affecting the initial flawed award."

Microsoft vice president for communications Frank Shaw said the Defense Department should not change its approach.

"We believe the Department of Defense made the correct decision when they awarded the contract, "Shaw wrote in an emailed statement. "However, we support their decision to reconsider a small number of factors as it is likely the fastest way to resolve all issues and quickly provide the needed modern technology to people across our armed forces. Throughout this process, we've focused on listening to the needs of the DoD, delivering the best product, and making sure nothing we did delayed the procurement process. We are not going to change this approach now."