‘Corruption Of A High Order’: Oracle Unloads On AWS, Pentagon In JEDI Cloud Appeal

Microsoft has won the lucrative engagement to transform the military's IT systems, but Oracle keeps AWS in its cross-hairs in trying again to scuttle the contract as it stands


Microsoft might have won the JEDI sweepstakes, but an appeal Oracle filed trying to block that award stays laser-focused on Amazon Web Services as the culprit that it argues hopelessly corrupted the military's commercial cloud procurement.

Oracle raised its former contentions that the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure RFP process should have been invalidated once meddling from at least three military officials who were closely tied to AWS came to light.

"JEDI suffers from corruption of a high order," the document filed last Friday with the U.S. Court of Federal Appeals reads.

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[Related: The JEDI Cloud History: From A Cloud Goal To A Microsoft Win]

Neither Oracle nor AWS responded to a request to comment on the appeal.

Oracle argues the conflicted officials were responsible for an illegal and unethical decision to opt for a single cloud provider rather than take a multi-cloud approach to implementing potentially $10 billion in cloud services in the coming years.

AWS-aligned Pentagon officials also were responsible for adoption of selection criteria that effectively ruled out all cloud providers other than AWS and Microsoft Azure, the appeal argues.

Judge Eric Bruggink, who sits on the Court of Federal Claims, got it wrong when he ruled in favor of the government and AWS, which voluntarily joined the case as a co-defendant to protect its own interests. That ruling cleared one of the last potential obstacles to delivering the JEDI award to AWS or Microsoft.

On Oct. 25, the Pentagon announced Microsoft as the provider that would receive the contract to build the military's General Purpose cloud.

Oracle asked the appeals court to issue an injunction blocking the "massive, high-profile DoD procurement for enterprise-wide cloud services."

The most-problematic gate condition was that providers had to operate three existing data centers with FedRAMP Moderate certifications. Only Amazon and Microsoft could overcome that hurdle at the time, Oracle told the court.

But that requirement was crafted in an arbitrary way not consistent with proper procedures. It was simply imposed to winnow the field, Oracle's brief argues.

The gate criteria were intended to "get to one" provider, the lawsuit reads, quoting a Slack message from a DDS lawyer.

And the decision to opt for a single provider, as Oracle argued in the lower court, violated federal law, the appeal repeated.

Deap Ubhi, an AWS employee who briefly worked for the Pentagon, was again a prime target for accusations of conflicts.

From the very conception of JEDI, when then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, established a steering group to implement a cloud transformation through a commercial provider, Ubhi was tilting the board in Amazon's favor, Oracle's appeal argues.

Deap Ubhi was one of four people assigned to the Defense Digital Service group tasked with leading the JEDI engagement.

Oracle's attorneys attempted to paint a picture of Ubhi pulling the strings, based on testimony recounting meetings and Slack conversations, during his "Brief AWS Hiatus".

The appeal attempts to detail Ubhi's role in advocating for a single award and establishing its technical requirements, to getting information useful to AWS on the department's needs and accessing information about its competitors.

While Oracle accused Ubhi of lying about his ties to AWS, particularly that Amazon had agreed to buy a startup he launched and then reemploy him, an Inspector General's investigation found Ubhi never shared non-public information with AWS and didn't have access to sensitive documents related to the RFP.

Four companies ultimately submitted proposals for the contract. Oracle and IBM, both ruled out contention because of the gate criteria, filed protests with the Government Accountability Office. Microsoft also criticized the criteria, and Google dropped out of the contest altogether because of restrictive terms, the appeal reads.

Oracle also pointed to Anthony DeMartino, a former AWS consultant and Shanahan's Chief of Staff, as well as Victor Gavin, a Navy official who later went to work at Amazon, as conflicted military officials.

Judge Bruggink concurred with the Defense Department that all those officials at the center of Oracle's claims were "bit players" and their potential conflicts didn't impact the integrity of the procurement.