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Oracle Alleges AWS Recruited DoD Officials To Influence JEDI Cloud Award

Oracle asks a federal judge to either declare AWS ineligible for the looming $10 billion contract, or else order the military's investigation to continue while blocking a final decision

Oracle accused Amazon Web Services of allegedly recruiting Defense Department officials specifically to influence the military's process in crafting the potentially $10 billion JEDI cloud contract in a motion filed Tuesday in federal court.

Oracle argued the Pentagon's own investigation into claims of conflicts of interest uncovered "a web of lies, ethics violations, and misconduct" that merit revisiting the military's decision to knock Oracle and other competitors out of the running for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract for cloud computing services.

The JEDI RFP process has been "riddled with improprieties," the document reads, and it "all ties to a single offeror, AWS."

[Related: 10 Things You Should Know About The DoD Cloud Strategy]

Oracle and IBM were eliminated from contention for providing the "General Purpose" cloud at the center of the Pentagon's cloud transformation initiative, leaving AWS and Microsoft as the final two vendors vying for the winner-take-all contract. A decision could come as soon as mid-July.

But Oracle asked Judge Eric Bruggink, who sits on the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, to find Amazon's recruitment of DoD officials resulted in an unfair competitive advantage—and to either rule AWS ineligible for the JEDI award, or otherwise order a more-extensive investigation before allowing a final decision to be rendered.

AWS, according to Oracle's court filings, offered jobs and bonuses to at least those two people working within the U.S. Digital Service: Deap Ubhi, who has become the central figure in Oracle's conflict-of-interest claims; and a former Navy official, whose name has been redacted in the court filing.

That person retired from the Navy at the start of June—17 days before joining AWS.

Those two accessed "sensitive procurement information" after accepting jobs at AWS and participated in highly technical, high-level meetings, including with Microsoft and Google. Those roles allowed them to steer the vendor-selection process without disclosing relationships with one of the companies vying for the lucrative contract.

Oracle, the Defense Department, and AWS all declined to comment for this report.

Oracle accused Ubhi of "gathering and removing extensive sensitive information from the DoD." He later lied about his misconduct, Oracle argued to the court.

Despite claims to the contrary, Amazon failed to set up "ethical walls" around Ubhi to avoid improperly using the information that its new employee possessed. AWS representatives even participated in a meeting with Ubhi without disclosing an agreement had already been reached to hire him back.

After Oracle first raised the issue, the DoD Inspector General, assisted by the FBI's Public Corruption Squad, reopened a prior investigation and again concluded those potential improprieties didn't impact the integrity of the process. A previous Government Accountability Office investigation also found no flaw warranting a change in how the military was selecting a cloud vendor.

But Oracle argued Tuesday the military's contracting officer was wrong to take Ubhi's claims at face value during the investigation, noting he actively sought to return to AWS, where he previously worked, during his short stint at DoD, where for a time he worked as a JEDI project manager.

And the contracting officer was also wrong to treat "AWS as somehow blame-free despite its heavy hand in the misconduct,” the complaint stated.

Oracle has argued throughout the process that "procurement flaws" led to a decision by the military to look for a single cloud vendor to satisfy its "general purpose" cloud needs, and to craft three of seven "gate criteria" vendors must meet that unnecessarily eliminate much of the competition for the award.

Oracle has argued federal law prevents a single award since the nature of the contract involves constant technology refreshes, placing JEDI under a law mandating a continual bidding and selection process.

The court filing also documents efforts by AWS to recruit other DoD employees involved in the JEDI process.

Amazon voluntarily joined the federal government as a defendant in the case. Earlier this year, it filed an opposition motion challenging Oracle's claims about how decisions were made to go with a single vendor for the entirety of the award, the "gate criteria" and potential conflicts of interest.

AWS argued it was illogical to conclude Ubhi's position empowered him to steer JEDI requirements away from the actual needs of the military and characterized Oracle's lawsuit as a "fishing expedition" in search of reasons to support its claims.

Oracle's top Washington D.C. lobbyist, Kenneth Glueck, recently wrote leaders of the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations, appealing for the congressional body responsible for federal spending to exercise oversight to counter a flawed procurement process.

"We believe that a full and fair consideration of four competing JEDI proposals is in the best interests of the warfighter, the taxpayer, and the United States," Glueck said.

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