Pentagon to continue legal fight over JEDI Cloud contract
Although he has signaled he may have to reconsider his plans for the multibillion-dollar JEDI Cloud contract, the Defense Department has decided it isn’t ready to give up – at least not yet.
In court documents Filed late Friday afternoon, the department said it was engaged for at least several additional months of litigation as part of a lawsuit against a bid filed by losing bidder Amazon Web Services.
The decision was somewhat unexpected, as in previous filings and public statements the ministry has said it should reconsider whether or not to proceed with the JEDI project if the Federal Claims Court does not dismiss the parts of the lawsuit that alleged inappropriate political influence over the role of former President Donald Trump and other government officials.
In an April 28 ruling, Judge Patricia E. Campbell-Smith left Amazon‘s lawsuit fully intact and told the parties to consult and report by May 28 on whether the lawsuit was to continue under the circumstances.
By Friday’s deadline, both sides indicated that would be the case, but had very different ideas on how the case should play out.
The government and Microsoft, JEDI’s successful bidder, want the court to dismiss Amazon’s request to collect additional evidence, including taking court-ordered depositions from the former president and other officials.
But even assuming the judge rejects those discovery requests and moves forward with a more streamlined approach to a possible decision, the proposed timeline for deciding the case would delay matters until the end of October at the earliest.
Amazon, meanwhile, wants to start arguing next month over what additional evidence it should be allowed to incorporate into the “administrative record” that the judge will eventually use to decide the case. Beyond these initial arguments, which would end in July, the rest of the trial schedule would remain “to be determined”, depending on the schedule proposed by the company.
Beyond timing issues, the DoD and Amazon also disagree on the specific types of evidence that belong to the court record. AWS accused the government of withholding evidence that could be important to its cause.
For example, the government has so far refused to forward Slack messages and emails involving DoD employees that Amazon says could show evidence of anti-AWS bias during the procurement process.
The department withheld the recordings in what Amazon sees as a disregard for previous orders from Justice Campbell-Smith. At the start of the case, she said the DoD “should” fill out the administrative record with these kinds of “informal” documents – but did not say explicitly that it must.
“Other factual developments have occurred, including Trump’s White House blocking a DoD Inspector General investigation into the very issues AWS raised in its amended complaint,” the lawyers wrote. from AWS. “The tribunal can, and must, establish an effective briefing schedule that always takes into account defense and national security interests by accepting the schedule proposed by AWS.”
The DoD argues that Justice Campbell-Smith has enough information to make her decision in the thousands of pages that already make up JEDI’s administrative record, and that most of the relevant issues were referred to court a long time ago. year and a half, when the judge issued his decision to order the work stoppage under the JEDI contract.
“Any advantage gained by taking more time to summarize in detail the issues that the parties have already explored in depth is more than outweighed by the continued damage to national security or the continued delay in implementing these critical capabilities,” said writes government lawyers.
The Defense Department did not immediately respond to questions from the Federal News Network on Friday whether its court documents reflected a ruling on its intention to continue arguing the JEDI case or whether its review process is still pending. In progress.
This is not unusual: the department, since the conception of JEDI in 2018, has been extremely cautious in discussing procurement in all public fora, and even more so after it has become a subject of litigation.
Oracle filed the first legal challenge in 2018, alleging it was improperly excluded from the public market. The company took its pre-award protest to a federal appeals court, which ultimately ruled in favor of the DoD late last year.
It is also unclear, in the absence of public communication from DoD on JEDI, what the contract is supposed to be used for from 2021 and why it remains a subject of dispute.
The department’s 2022 budget, also released on Friday, makes no mention of the JEDI contract at all, but announces many other ways the Pentagon aims to leverage cloud computing.
Each of the military departments have already moved on to their own cloud adoption plans, all of which recognize the reality that the infrastructure and platform services that JEDI originally envisioned providing are now available from multiple vendors, and the cloud is much more of a commodity than it was in 2018.
Air Force’s Cloud One project, for example, hosted 60 separate systems in commercial clouds last December: 32 in AWS and 24 in Microsoft’s Azure. Together, they hosted nearly 4,000 terabytes of data.