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AWS Says Military Trying To ‘Gerrymander’ Away Deficiencies In Microsoft’s JEDI Bid

The Pentagon’s plan to re-evaluate the controversial award is rife with problems, from not allowing AWS to offer a new price in light of shifting storage requirements, to ignoring several other source-selection criteria, AWS argues. The cloud leader has sued the government claiming President Donald Trump corrupted the process by which the military chooses a commercial cloud vendor to transform its IT systems.

Amazon Web Services argues the Pentagon is not fairly reassessing bids for its JEDI cloud transformation initiative, but instead narrowly amending deficiencies in its source-selection process that were called out by a federal judge to ensure the controversial contract stays with Microsoft.

In a motion unsealed Tuesday in Amazon’s lawsuit, the cloud giant asked that judge to order the military to revise its approach in the 120-day period provided to correct errors Pentagon officials made when they evaluated competing bids for the potentially $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure award.

“In plain terms, DoD’s proposed corrective action focuses on allowing Microsoft to fix its fatally deficient proposal, while paralyzing AWS’s proposed pricing in the face of planned changes to the RFP’s requirements,” reads the Amazon motion opposing the existing plan. “And it does not promise to address the other procurement flaws in any meaningful way.”

[Related: AWS CEO Jassy: Trump's ‘Political Influence’ Over JEDI Cloud Threatens National Security]

Almost two weeks ago, Judge Patricia E. Campbell-Smith, who sits on the United States Court of Federal Claims, allowed the Pentagon to “reconsider certain aspects” of how it evaluated vendor bids to deliver JEDI to Microsoft over AWS.

The Pentagon asked for the award to be remanded back into its authority after Campbell-Smith granted Amazon’s request for a temporary restraining order that prevented Microsoft from moving forward with task orders and substantial implementation work.

The terms the military proposed when asking for remand constitute an attempt to “gerrymander” the criteria in order to “preserve the illusion that Microsoft offered the lowest price while simultaneously perpetuating competitive impediments for AWS,” the latest Amazon motion reads.

AWS argues, citing Judge Campbell-Smith’s decision to stall implementation, that Microsoft’s bid was not compliant with the requirement’s the military put forward in its RFP—at least on the one category addressed by the judge pertaining to online verses nearline storage. And no corrective action will solve that deficiency.

For that reason, “the corrective action DoD proposes fails the tests of rationality and fairness,” AWS argued. It “suggests that DoD seeks to take whatever corrective action is necessary to reaffirm its prior award to Microsoft despite the material defects the Court identified and DoD has now acknowledged.”

That proposed corrective action doesn’t allow AWS to modify the price it initially offered, even as the storage requirements that offer was based on can shift.

Such pricing constraints “would irrationally benefit only Microsoft by preserving its position as the allegedly lowest-priced offeror,” the AWS motion reads. They “would enable Microsoft to resurrect its eligibility while depriving AWS of a reasonable opportunity to revise its proposal in response to changed requirements.”

And the military has resisted looking again at any other of the eight criteria that a commercial cloud computing vendor is required to meet, as established in the JEDI RFP, even though AWS argues six were improperly evaluated in the initial process.

“Despite a passing nod in the right direction, DoD does not meaningfully commit to reconsider the other evaluation errors identified in the protest that produced the flawed award to Microsoft,” AWS said.

In a statement, an AWS spokesperson said the cloud provider is “pleased to see the DoD recognize the need to take corrective action, but we’re concerned that the proposed approach is not designed to provide a complete, fair, and effective re-evaluation.”

AWS noted that the DoD refused to answer any of the 265 questions submitted in its protest that it believes outlined flaws during the initial JEDI evaluation period.

“Instead of addressing the breadth of problems in its proposed corrective action, the DoD’s proposal focuses only on providing Microsoft a “do-over” on its fatally flawed bid while preventing AWS from adjusting its own pricing in response to the DoD’s new storage criteria,” the statement said.

Microsoft declined comment on the latest legal argument from its rival, AWS.

Amazon’s case is rooted in the argument that President Donald Trump’s animosity to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, stemming from Bezos’ ownership of the Washington Post, a newspaper the president perceives as antagonistic to his administration, corrupted JEDI source selection.

The ruling to remand the case back to the Pentagon leaves in limbo an AWS request for the court to order President Trump, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and former Secretary of Defense James Mattis to sit for questions in a deposition.

Amazon wants to ask Trump directly about his statement to Mattis to “screw Amazon” out of JEDI, as reported by a Mattis aide.

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