E-Commerce and tech giant Amazon is running low on time to decide whether to formally challenge Pentagon. The imminent move comes in relation to the award of a US $10 BN Cloud Computing Contract to rival Microsoft. The contract has been dubbed as Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure or JEDI.
The scope of the contract includes up gradation and unification of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) entire network over the cloud. It also includes secure handling of highly classified US Military secrets and war plans. Going forward, the Pentagon plans to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve war strategy and response.
Amazon has strongly criticized the award of JEDI to Microsoft, citing many reasons why it was a much superior contender for the award. Amazon claims to be the lowest bidder and contends it already has a track record of handling classified government data.
The latter claim of Amazon is cemented by the fact that it already has higher security clearances that are generally a prerequisite for handling classified government information. On the contrary, Microsoft is still in the final stages of getting the accreditation required for dealing with sensitive and classified state data.
Leading up to the award of JEDI to Microsoft, President Trump publicly expressed his displeasure and concerns if this contract was awarded to Amazon. Since assuming office, Trump has hardly missed an opportunity to publicly criticize Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos for “monopolistic” business practices.
Trump’s displeasure with Bezos does not stop at Amazon, as the latter also owns print media giant Washington Post. Notwithstanding the bad taste between the two, independent contract award experts are skeptical of whether Amazon would be able to substantiate the allegations of favoritism by Pentagon officials.
Oracle and IBM, two other notable names in the tech industry, were also among the initial bidders for the contract. However, only Amazon and Microsoft were shortlisted for the final bidding. Independent experts also highly doubt the possibility that Pentagon officials may have been influenced by Trump’s public criticism of Amazon.
These are the possible avenues Amazon can seek to redress its grievance. It has a right to seek an official debrief from Pentagon, citing few specifics of why Microsoft was given preference. If this does not suffice, Amazon can file an appeal with the Government Accountability Office, which will have about 100 days to review the process.
If Amazon wants to further escalate the matter, it can file an appeal with the US Court of Federal Claims that hears monetary claims against the US Government. One thing is for sure though, Amazon is running low on time to decide. Nonetheless, it seems highly likely that Amazon will knock the door of some forum.