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AWS Joins DoD As Defendant In Oracle's Lawsuit Challenging JEDI Bids

The cloud leader says it needs to defend itself against Oracle's allegations that two federal employees were working to promote AWS in the bidding process for the JEDI cloud computing contract.

Amazon Web Services, at its own request, became a defendant last week in Oracle's lawsuit alleging the U.S. military's bidding process for the JEDI cloud computing contract was marred by conflicts of interest.

The federal judge hearing the case allowed the cloud leader to join as the co-defendant to the federal government, which Oracle sued earlier this month under seal before the documents were made public last week.

While companies typically try to avoid becoming defendants in lawsuits, AWS said in a motion seeking to join the case that it has an interest in intervening to defend itself against Oracle's allegations that two people had conflicts of interest during the vendor selection process for the potentially $10 billion, winner-take-all contract to modernize the military's IT infrastructure.

[Related: IBM Has Its JEDI Cloud Protest Rejected By GAO]

Oracle questioned the "propriety" of the procurement process after obtaining communications in which one federal employee—Deap Ubhi, who served as JEDI project manager at the Department of Defense—called colleagues voicing support for AWS rivals "dum dums."

The Redwood City, Calif., tech giant alleges Ubhi and Anthony DeMartino, chief of staff for the Deputy Secretary of Defense, both had conflicts of interest because of their relationship with AWS. Ubhi had previously worked for AWS, while DeMartino had served as a consultant to AWS prior to being tapped by the DoD, the complaint stated.

Those conflicts put Oracle and other AWS competitors at an unfair disadvantage during the RFP process, Oracle argued.

AWS and Oracle both declined to comment on the issue Monday.

AWS "has direct and substantial economic interests at stake in this case," its petition to join the case reads, because Oracle alleged conflicts of interest involving that company.

The disposition of the case clearly could impair those proprietary, financial and reputational interests, AWS said, and the government alone cannot adequately represent Amazon against "Oracle’s meritless conflict of interest allegations."

Ubhi, the lawsuit states, worked at AWS until joining the Defense Digital Service in summer 2016. He returned to AWS as general manager in November 2017.

While engaged in the JEDI Cloud procurement, Ubhi held discussions with AWS regarding AWS buying one of Ubhi’s businesses, and had employment discussions with AWS," Oracle's lawsuit alleged.

Oracle alleged that Ubhi was involved in "highly technical" discussions with JEDI Cloud competitors, including Microsoft and Google, and "drove the single award decision." At the same time, Oracle alleged, Ubhi’s messages on Slack shared with other members of the Defense Digital Service team were "riddled with inappropriate comments about competitors, DoD personnel and others, raising significant questions about the propriety of this procurement."

In a series of Slack messages on Oct. 5, 2017, Ubhi allegedly insulted one of the Under Secretary’s deputies, Jane Rathbun, after she referred favorably to Microsoft: "Role playing: I’m Jane R./holy sh[*]t, SaaS is the holy grail, they [Microsoft] do it all for us!"

"We’ve got some real dum dums in here, their names usually begin with J…" he went on.

Oracle alleged that Ubhi "attacked anyone who took multi-cloud positions or advocated non-AWS solutions."

Oracle also said a DoD assessment of Ubhi’s alleged conflicts "span less than one page," did not involve an interview with Ubhi and "failed to identify when or how the Ubhi-AWS business negotiations began."

A DoD memo, however, said that Ubhi recused himself from JEDI Cloud dealing in October 2017, when discussions with AWS started. "His access to any JEDI Cloud materials was immediately revoked," the memo read.

DeMartino, a former AWS consultant, also advocated "procurement positions, including single source," and participated in JEDI Cloud meetings in violation of conflict restrictions of the U.S. code, the code of federal regulations and his executive order ethics pledge, Oracle alleged.

The DoD Standard Of Conduct Office had warned DeMartino not to get involved in any matter involving AWS without prior approval from the office, the complaint states.

But he allegedly ignored the warning and participated in JEDI Cloud discussions for over six months, Oracle said. When he did seek approval, Oracle alleged, the office "directed DeMartino to separate from the JEDI Cloud procurement."

"The procurement damage from DeMartino’s months of involvement had already occurred," Oracle argued in calling for a full investigation of DeMartino’s involvement before the DoD awards the contract to any company.

Oracle and other AWS competitors have been arguing that the DoD’s JEDI bidding process, in seeking a single cloud vendor, goes against industry best practices for avoiding vendor lock-in.

The lawsuit also highlights other concerns Oracle has with the JEDI Cloud procurement process, including that the DoD issued a single IDIQ contract award determination "in direct violation of the U.S. Code."

Oracle claims that three of the RFP’s seven "Gate Criteria" that each bidder must pass in order to compete for the contract exceed the DoD’s needs and violate the Competition In Contracting Act (CICA), to the "significant competitive disadvantage of Oracle."

Oracle’s lawsuit comes a month after the Government Accountability Office, the federal government watchdog that oversees procurement, tossed out Oracle's protest over the contract.

The DoD issued the original JEDI Cloud RFP on July 26, 2018, and is expected to announce the contract award in April 2019.

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