The Pentagon has awarded its $10 billion cloud computing contract to Microsoft, instead of Amazon, which received criticism from President Donald Trump and rivals.
Amazon’s AMS was seen as the front runner for most of the bidding process and said it was “surprised” by the decision.
The contract, known as the Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure (JEDI), pitted some of the world’s biggest tech companies against each other with the ultimate prize being to upgrade the US defence department’s IT systems.
The project has been marred in controversy and complaint, particularly over the decision to offer it to a single vendor. This resulted in legal action and also caught the attention of the President, Donald Trump.
End of the JEDI saga
The JEDI project is about replacing the Department of Defences (DoD) ageing computer networks with a single cloud system.
As winners of the contract, Microsoft will provide AI-based analysis and store classified military information, as well as a host of other computer services. A big reason for the project is to give the military better access to data and the cloud from battlefields, which also proved to be to big a concern.
That was the case for Google who was the first to drop out of the JEDI race in October 2018. The decision followed its announcement that it would not renew another military contract called Project Maven after protests from its employees.
“We are not bidding on the JEDI contract because first, we couldn’t be assured that it would align with our AI Principles,” a Google spokesman said in a statement. “And second, we determined that there were portions of the contract that were out of scope with our current government certifications.”
The parts of the contract that Google cited were also issues for both IBM and Oracle who filed lawsuits against the DoD in December last year, arguing that there were conflicts of interest between former Pentagon and AWS employees.
Oracle was removed from the bidding process in April, before the ruling from that lawsuit, when it failed to meet the requirement of having three data centres with FedRAMP Moderate ‘Authorised’ support.
IBM was also ruled out, not long after, leaving Microsoft to battle it out with the favourite, AWS. However, in August, the bidding caught the attention of President Trump, who has had a long public spat with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
A year before, it was reported that Trump called his Pentagon Secretary James Mattis and directed him to “screw Amazon” out of a chance to bid on the JEDI contract. This is according to Mattis’ forthcoming book “Holding The Line: Inside Trump’s Pentagon with Secretary Mattis.” The account was written by Guy Snodgrass, who served as a speechwriter for Mattis.
The official line from the Pentagon is that it weighed up the bidding fairly and that Microsoft was the rightful winner. But reports of Trump’s involvement cast some doubt over those statements; Amazon said it was “surprised about this conclusion”.
“AWS is the clear leader in cloud computing, and a detailed assessment purely on the comparative offerings clearly lead to a different conclusion,” said an AWS spokesperson. “We remain deeply committed to continuing to innovate for the new digital battlefield where security, efficiency, resiliency, and scalability of resources can be the difference between success and failure.”