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Will the AWS protest kill JEDI as we know it?

Amazon Web Services’ decision to protest the JEDI award to Microsoft might inject a bit of politics into the usual non-partisan world of government contracting.

I wrote in April 2018 that AWS could argue prejudice at the very highest level -- the president of the United States.

Donald Trump has not hidden his disdain for Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. He routinely attacks the Bezos-owned Washington Post and has also complained about the postal rates Amazon pays.

More directly related to the JEDI cloud infrastructure contract itself, Trump said in July that he was hearing complaints about it from other companies. Trump said he was told that the procurement wasn’t competitive and slanted toward Amazon.

Shortly thereafter, new Defense Secretary Mark Esper paused the procurement to review it. In October, Esper aid he was removing himself from the process because his son worked for IBM, an early bidder on JEDI.

On Oct. 25, Microsoft won the JEDI contract. Then on Thursday, AWS said it will protest to the Court of Federal Claims.

In its public statements, AWS talks about the need for procurements to be objective and “free from political influence.” AWS also claims “unmistakable bias" in the source selection.

We’ll have to wait and see how AWS supports those claims in its filing whenever it becomes public.

Will we see Trump’s fingerprints on this decision? If they are, what does that mean?

Frankly, JEDI is a bad state of things. AWS is claiming bias. Oracle is continuing its own legal challenge at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and also is claiming bias.

The longer the delay, the greater the risk that JEDI becomes irrelevant.

Meanwhile, the march to the cloud moves on unabated. Microsoft and AWS will continue to market and sell their cloud infrastructures to the Defense Department and the rest of government. Government systems integrators will continue to market and sell their cloud services to agencies.

Many executives at systems integrators including CEOs are on record as saying that it really didn’t matter who won the contract. JEDI is just the infrastructure that is largely commoditized. For integrators, the true value of the cloud is the services around it.

Delays in JEDI might mean that work on those migrations and other services will be delayed. But remember that JEDI isn’t specifically tied to any of the military services or any specific DOD agency. There will be no mandate to use.

The service branches also are already moving forward with their own cloud projects and those are generally mission- or purpose-driven, which plays right into the hands of the systems integrators.

As those opportunities continue to move forward and develop, JEDI could become less attractive. If there is any substance to AWS’ bias claims, the delay in the JEDI might be significant.

I’m not ready to call JEDI dead, but it’s not looking good.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Nov 15, 2019 at 11:30 AM


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