The Department of Justice and Microsoft failed to dismiss Amazon Web Services' protest of the Pentagon’s $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract.
The motion tried to get the court to drop Amazon's allegation that then-President Donald Trump blocked it from winning the contract.
JEDI was awarded to Microsoft in October 2019, but work has yet to begin due to the ongoing court case.
Trump casts a shadow over the future of JEDI
Amazon claims that President Trump stopped the company from winning the contract, potentially due to a personal dislike of Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO and owner of The Washington Post.
A core part of the case is a claim that Trump in 2018 told then-Defense Secretary James Mattis to "screw Amazon" out of a chance to bid on JEDI.
The quote came from the book Holding The Line by Mattis' chief speechwriter and communications director, Guy Snodgrass. He alleges Mattis recounted Trump's request to a small group of DoD officials, and added: "We're not going to do that. This will be done by the book, both legally and ethically." Mattis later resigned, and then was fired, but has refused to confirm or deny the incident.
“The record of improper influence by former President Trump is disturbing, and we are pleased the Court will review the remarkable impact it had on the JEDI contract award," an AWS spokesperson told DCD in a prepared statement.
"AWS continues to be the superior technical choice, the less expensive choice, and would provide the best value to the DoD and the American taxpayer. We continue to look forward to the Court’s review of the many material flaws in the DoD’s evaluation, and we remain absolutely committed to ensuring that the Department has access to the best technology at the best price."
Last year, the Department of Defense Inspector General cleared the military's decision to award JEDI to Microsoft. But, crucially, the IG admitted that it was unable to fully investigate White House interference "because of the assertion of a 'presidential communications privilege.'
In addition to the influence claim, AWS said that the DoD erred in evaluating Microsoft’s proposed offering for online storage, which it calls “noncompliant.”
Last year, the judge said that Amazon was “likely to succeed on the merits of its argument that the DoD improperly evaluated” Microsoft's bid for that very specific technical finding.
Now with the court set to look at the political interference claims, JEDI's future is uncertain. This February, the DoD warned that if the claims weren't dismissed it may scrap JEDI altogether as it would delay the military cloud rollout beyond the point of usefulness.
It is not clear if that was just a threat to try to get the claim dropped, or if the DoD will reevaluate JEDI.
If it is dropped, Microsoft won't have fully lost out on US military cloud contracts. In November 2020, the DoD awarded General Dynamics IT a $4.4bn contract to provide the military's cloud email and business software services. GDIT, with partner Dell, is essentially reselling Microsoft Office 365 services.
Earlier this year, Microsoft won an even larger contract: A huge, $22bn deal to deliver 120,000 custom HoloLens kits to soldiers. As part of the contract, Microsoft will provide cloud and Edge services to support the augmented reality kit.