The contract for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Enterprise Defense Infrastructure project became tied to legal challenges almost as soon as it was awarded to Microsoft in October 2019.
The United States Pentagon said Tuesday it has canceled the cloud computing contract with Microsoft which could end up being worth $ 10 billion. Instead it will pursue a deal with Microsoft and Amazon and possibly other cloud service providers.
“With the changing technological environment, it has become clear that the JEDI Cloud contract, which has long been delayed, no longer meets the requirements to meet DoDs. [US Department of Defense’s] capacity gaps, ”the Pentagon said in a statement.
The statement did not directly mention that the Pentagon faced extended legal challenges from Amazon over the original $ 1m contract awarded to Microsoft. Amazon claims that the Microsoft award has been tainted by politics, particularly President Donald Trump’s antagonism in the face of Amazon’s chief executive Jeff Bezos. Bezos owns the Washington Post, a magazine often criticized by Trump.
John Sherman, the Pentagon’s chief information officer, told reporters Tuesday that during the long legal battle with Amazon, “the landscape has evolved” with new possibilities for large-scale cloud computing services. So it was decided, he said, to start over and look for some sellers.
Sherman said JEDI will be replaced by a new program called Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability, and that both Amazon and Microsoft will “likely” be given part of the deal, though none is guaranteed. Sherman said the other three major cloud service providers – Google, IBM and Oracle – could qualify as well.
Microsoft said in response to the Pentagon’s announcement: “We understand the fundamentals of the DoD, and we support it and all military members who need the critical 21st century technology that JEDI would provide. The DoD has done just that. facing a difficult choice: Continue with what could be a years-long litigation battle or find another way forward. ”
Amazon Web Services, a market leader in the provision of cloud computing services, had long been considered a leading candidate to manage the Pentagon’s Enterprise Defense Infrastructure project, known as JEDI.
The project was intended to store and process huge amounts of classified data, allowing the U.S. military to improve communications with soldiers on the battlefield and use artificial intelligence to accelerate its war planning and combat capabilities. .
The JEDI contract became subject to legal challenges almost immediately when it was awarded to Microsoft in October 2019. The losing bidder, Amazon Web Services, went to court arguing that the Pentagon process was flawed and unfair, even though it was improperly influenced by politics.
This year, the Pentagon had hinted that it could overturn the contract, saying in May it felt compelled to reconsider its options after a federal judge in April rejected a Pentagon move to rule out key parts of the case. Amazon.
The JEDI saga has been unusual for the political dimension linked to Trump. In April 2020, the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Defense concluded that the contract process was in line with legal procurement and government standards.
The inspector general found no evidence of interference with the White House in the contract award process, but this review also said investigators could not fully review the case because the White House would not allow it. unrestricted access to witnesses.
Five months later, the Pentagon reaffirmed Microsoft as the contract winner, but the work was halted by Amazon’s legal challenge.
In its April 2020 report, the inspector general’s office did not draw a conclusion on whether Microsoft Corp. of Redmond, Washington, was aptly declared the winner.
Rather, he considered whether the decision-making process was proper and legal. He also examined allegations of unethical behavior by Pentagon officials involved in the matter and generally determined that any ethical deadline did not influence the outcome.
This review did not find evidence of White House pressure for the Pentagon to favor Microsoft’s offer, but it also said it could not definitively determine the full extent of the White House’s interactions with U.S. decision-makers. Pentagon.