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AWS Asks Judge To Hit Pause On JEDI Implementation

The cloud giant filed a motion Wednesday requesting that a federal court prevent the Defense Department from beginning migration to Microsoft Azure until it decides whether President Donald Trump's political influence corrupted the process.

Amazon Web Services asked a federal court late Wednesday to prevent the Defense Department from beginning the substantive implementation of its JEDI cloud contract with Microsoft until a decision is reached in its legal protest of the award.

The motion, still under seal and not available to the public, contends it is in the military's best interest to delay migration to Microsoft Azure until the AWS lawsuit, which alleges that President Donald Trump corrupted the JEDI source selection process, is resolved.

"It is important that the DoD pause JEDI to ensure our warfighters are getting the best technology available," an AWS spokesperson told CRN.

"When modernizing technology capabilities that directly impact national security, it's critical that these decisions be based on objective criteria, and free from political interference, or we’re not going to make the right decisions," the spokesperson said.

[Related: AWS Launches JEDI Cloud Counteroffensive]

AWS wants the court to ultimately restart the source selection process in a manner free of political influence, the company said.

During the RFP phase, AWS, the cloud market leader, was widely considered the front-runner in the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure initiative—poised to win the potentially $10 billion contract to modernize military IT with a commercial cloud.

As that process played out, AWS fought a lawsuit that Oracle brought against the federal government.

Oracle argued that several Pentagon officials who shaped the JEDI criteria had conflicts of interest in favor of Amazon, prompting AWS to voluntarily join the suit as a co-defendant.

President Trump also openly voiced his displeasure at the prospect of AWS winning the contract—even citing complaints from competitors like Oracle, IBM and Microsoft.

Microsoft ultimately won JEDI, prompting AWS to file its own lawsuit in November.

That initial complaint argued President Trump's "repeated public and behind-the-scenes attacks" against Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos swayed source selection and created an evaluation process riddled with "errors" that should be interpreted as evidence of political interference.

Multiple times, the commander-in-chief openly expressed anger at Amazon only because Bezos owned the Washington Post, a newspaper that critically covered the president. Bezos became Trump's "perceived political enemy," the complaint reads.

"President Trump's attacks were relentless, and he resorted to increasingly aggressive tactics to carry out his apparent personal goal of preventing Mr. Bezos and AWS from receiving the JEDI Contract," AWS argued in its initial court filing.

JEDI began to take shape back in 2017, with the bidding process playing out throughout 2018 and the award announced in 2019.

Military leaders have been eager to begin implementation of the massive cloud transformation project after the multiple delays resulting from the previous legal and administrative challenges.

Trump further stalled commencement of the project in September when he insisted on another review in the Defense Department. At the time, AWS argued to the court, though it wasn't publicly known, Microsoft had already been selected.

That review further set back JEDI by 85 days, during which Defense Secretary Mark Esper recused himself from the evaluation, citing a professional relationship his son had with IBM, one of the initial JEDI bidders that had already been knocked out of contention.

AWS argues a further delay would ensure the military purchases the best technology for its needs, and it would be consistent with the typical process when federal awards are challenged.

The Defense Department only said it would hold off the substantial implementation work with Microsoft until Feb. 11—a window that AWS argues doesn't provide nearly enough time for a satisfactory resolution in federal court.

"It is common practice to stay contract performance while a protest is pending and it’s important that the numerous evaluation errors and blatant political interference that impacted the JEDI award decision be reviewed," an AWS spokesperson told CRN.

The military is already using AWS successfully in the field, the spokesperson said, noting the DoD currently has a multi-cloud, multi-vendor environment for the many cloud services it consumes.

"AWS is absolutely committed to supporting the DoD's modernization efforts and to an expeditious legal process that resolves this matter as quickly as possible," the spokesperson said.

When it filed its complaint in November, the industry's largest cloud provider presented the court with a number of public statements from Trump, as well as other government officials.

During a campaign rally in 2016, the then-presidential candidate claimed Bezos bought the Washington Post to extend his political influence in service of Amazon's business.

"Believe me, If I become president, oh do they have problems. They're going to have such problems," Trump said that day in Texas.

Trump later described the Washington Post as a tool by which Bezos wielded his power again him, and told an audience, "we can't let him get away with it."

After taking office, the attacks escalated, as Trump became "obsessed" with Amazon and more-determined to punish Bezos, the document says.

Trump later referenced "tremendous complaints about the contract with the Pentagon and with Amazon" at a White House press conference--complaints made by AWS competitors.

"Great companies are complaining about it like Microsoft and Oracle and IBM," Trump said at that conference in July.

By that point, Oracle and IBM had been eliminated from consideration for failure to meet some requirements established by military officials. Those "gate criteria" remain a focus of a legal challenge mounted against the federal government that Oracle lost, but has since appealed.

On July 22, 2019, Trump retweeted a television segment from Fox News calling JEDI the "Bezos bailout."

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