Microsoft Won JEDI Cloud, But AWS And Oracle Still Fighting It Out
Despite both losing out on the potentially $10 billion military cloud transformation award, AWS argues Oracle maintains its legal fight to knock it out of contention should the military decide to re-open the procurement process
As Amazon Web Services contests the award of the Pentagon’s massive JEDI cloud transformation contract to Microsoft on one front, it remains engaged on another fighting Oracle’s still-pending appeal in case the procurement is re-opened.
The industry’s largest cloud services provider filed a brief Monday before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit pushing back against Oracle’s claim that conflicts of interest corrupted the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure procurement process in favor of AWS. Oracle’s appeal remains pending, even as—at least for now—Microsoft is the official recipient of the potentially $10 billion contract to transform military IT services with a commercial cloud provider.
While Oracle raised issues in its lawsuit, which failed before a District judge, about the Pentagon’s adherence to federal procurement law by its decision to go with a single cloud vendor, as well as the enforceability of the gate criteria all applicants had to meet (disqualifying both Oracle and IBM), Amazon’s response only addresses the claim of organizational conflicts of interest. The other matters are for the government to defend, the company argues.
And issues around AWS hiring former military personnel who were involved at various points and levels with the military’s cloud transformation planning “don’t matter,” the company argues, because Oracle failed two of JEDI’s gate criteria, of which there’s no evidence those suggested conflicts had any pertinence.
In another lawsuit, AWS is challenging the award of the JEDI contract to Microsoft, arguing President Donald Trump’s political interference, stemming from animosity for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, corrupted the process.
Oracle maintains its own legal fight, even after losing a protest with the Government Accountability Office and the lower court, because the company “hopes that if the procurement is reopened, AWS will be excluded so that Oracle will have to face one fewer competitor,” AWS argues in its response to Oracle’s challenge.
Oracle declined to comment directly on those arguments.
In its lawsuit, Oracle argued conflicted officials were responsible for the decision to opt for a single cloud provider rather than take a multi-cloud approach; and that 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.
Judge Eric Bruggink, who sits on the U.S. 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, Oracle argued to the Circuit Court.
On Oct. 25, the Pentagon announced Microsoft as the cloud 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"—its arguments remaining laser-focused on AWS.
Oracle has pointed to Deap Ubhi, an AWS employee who briefly worked for the Pentagon, as its prime target for accusations of conflicts. The company has also called attention to Anthony DeMartino, a former AWS consultant who was Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan's Chief of Staff, as well as Victor Gavin, a Navy official who later went to work at Amazon, as conflicted military officials.
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.
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 JEDI RFP.
In its latest brief, AWS says that in the early stages of the JEDI bidding process, it disclosed relationships with military officials out of an abundance of caution—that in the prior year it hired Ubhi and Gavin, two former military employees, but that it “proactively firewalled them from disclosing any nonpublic information to AWS’s JEDI proposal team.”
“In addition to preventing Mr. Ubhi and Mr. Gavin from accessing AWS’s JEDI proposal information, AWS implemented information firewalls to prevent them from potentially disclosing any nonpublic information to any members of the AWS WWPS JEDI proposal team,” the response reads.
But in January of last year, AWS learned from an Oracle legal document that Ubhi did not tell his superiors in his recusal letter from involvement in the JEDI project that he planned to return to AWS.
“Mr. Ubhi had previously represented to AWS—on multiple occasions—that he had disclosed his AWS employment discussions to his DoD supervisors and obtained approval from DoD ethics
officials to have such discussions,” the AWS brief says.
Within a few weeks, Amazon disclosed that information to the Pentagon’s contracting officer.
“In every respect, Oracle’s insinuation that Mr. Ubhi supposedly possessed government secrets and conveyed them to AWS is based on nothing but speculation,” AWS told the appellate court.