In a sign of our politically-charged times, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has called the US Department of Defense (DoD) decision to award a $10bn cloud contract to Microsoft “politically corrupted” and due to the interference of President Donald Trump.
Earlier this month the DoD confirmed that following a “comprehensive re-evaluation of the JEDI [Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure] Cloud proposals”, it had “determined that Microsoft’s proposal continues to represent the best value to government”, despite AWS claiming to have offered a significantly lower bid “by several tens of millions of dollars” for the massive government cloud services contract.
In a blog post, Amazon described the decision to award the contract to Microsoft as “politically corrupted” and filled with “numerous material evaluation errors”, blaming the decision on interference by the President due to his long-standing animosity with Amazon boss Jeff Bezos. At various times Trump has referred to the Amazon founder as “Jeff Bozo” and called Washington Post, which Bezos bought in 2013, as Amazon’s “chief lobbyist”, an allegation the newspaper has strenuously denied.
Trump has also previously threatened to take antitrust action or split up Amazon due to the power it wields, and AWS says the DoD decision on the JEDI deal “sets a dangerous precedent” where “defense officials act based on a desire to please the President, rather than do what’s right”.
The cloud giant added: “This was illustrated by the refusal to cooperate with the DoD Inspector General, which sought to investigate allegations that the President interfered in the JEDI procurement in order to steer the award away from AWS. Instead of cooperating, the White House exerted a ‘presidential communications privilege’ that resulted in senior DoD officials not answering questions about JEDI communications between the White House and DoD.”
Indeed, according to former Trump speechwriter Guy Snodgrass, Trump urged former defense secretary James Mattis to “screw Amazon” out of the deal, but in his book he goes on to say that Mattis did not comply and told his team to do everything “by the book, both legally and ethically”.
The DoD inspector general also cast doubt on Amazon’s claims about presidential interference. In a statement the inspector said: “The evidence we received showed that the DoD personnel who evaluated the contract proposals and awarded Microsoft the JEDI Cloud contract were not pressured regarding their decision on the award of the contract by any DoD leaders more senior to them, who may have communicated with the White House.”
Amazon has pledged to press on with its legal challenge of the deal, which analysts say could help Microsoft close the gap on AWS and pull it further ahead of Google in the fast-paced and competitive cloud computing sector. AWS currently leads the $111bn sector with around a third of the global market, with Microsoft Azure holding 18 per cent of the market and Google Cloud Services in third with around eight per cent, but this $10bn JEDI deal could bring Microsoft up to almost level with market leader.
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