A federal judge has rejected a motion filed by Microsoft and the Defense Department that would have prevented Amazon from pursuing allegations that former President Donald Trump improperly interfered in a cloud contract worth up to $10 billion, according to a Wednesday notification from the Court of Federal Claims.
The decision allows Amazon to pursue depositions against Trump, former defense secretary Jim Mattis and other top officials in a long-running bid protest lawsuit.
JEDI, which stands for Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, is meant to create a massive cloud-based central operating system for the U.S. armed forces. The contract has been controversial from the start, in part because it was designed to go to just one cloud provider. Microsoft was awarded the contract in 2019, and again last year.
Shortly after Microsoft’s win, Amazon brought a bid protest lawsuit alleging that the Defense Department’s procurement professionals made mistakes when weighing the two company’s bids. Amazon also argues that Trump had improperly interfered in the contract as a way of retaliating against Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
In a statement, Microsoft communications chief Frank Shaw said that the ruling from the court’s Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith “changes little.” He emphasized that Microsoft had won the contract not once but twice, and noted that the company is still preparing to implement JEDI even though it is stalled in court.
“Not once, but twice, professional procurement staff at the DoD chose Microsoft after a thorough review,” Shaw said. “Many other large and sophisticated customers make the same choice every week. While we can’t work directly with the DoD on JEDI, we’ve continued for more than a year to do the internal work to be ready to move quickly to support the DoD’s mission when we can.”
Drew Herdener, an Amazon spokesperson, drew attention to what he called a “disturbing” record of improper influence by Trump. He added that the company is pleased that the court will review the “remarkable impact” Trump had on the award.
“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,” Herdener wrote. “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.”
A Defense Department spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Top officials in the Defense Department’s office of the chief information officer have previously implied that they would jettison JEDI if forced to undergo the lengthy and expensive litigation process that depositions would entail. JEDI has already been bogged down in litigation for more than two years.
The judge’s reasoning for dismissing Microsoft’s motion has not been made public. The opinion is to be released at a later date after Amazon, Microsoft and the Defense Department have had the opportunity to remove information they deem confidential.