(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Amazon will challenge the Pentagon’s decision to award a contract to rival Microsoft by claiming that President Trump himself manipulated the tendering process to stiff his “perceived political enemy”—Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos—out of $10 billion deal.
On Monday, the e-commerce giant filed a formal complaint that alleges Trump launched “repeated public and behind-the-scenes attacks,” to steer the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract away from Amazon.
“The stakes are high,” the complaint reads. “The question is whether the President of the United States should be allowed to use the budget of DoD (Department of Defense) to pursue his own personal and political ends.”
As the complaint points out, it’s no secret that Trump has criticized Amazon and Jeff Bezos. He’s repeatedly accused the e-commerce giant of paying “little or no taxes” at the expense of putting hundreds of retailers out of business. At the same time, Trump has regularly taken shots at the media coverage from The Washington Post, a newspaper that Bezos also owns.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 7, 2015
But back in July, the president himself indicated he might intervene in the procurement process for the JEDI contract, citing complaints he said he received from the other bidders, including Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM. A recently published book later claimed Trump directed his then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis to “screw Amazon” out of the $10 billion Pentagon contract.
“In this case, the President made it widely known to everyone—including on publicly broadcast television and through his prolific tweets—that DoD should not award the JEDI contract to AWS (Amazon Web Services),” the complaint says.
However, the complaint offers no new evidence to prove Trump deliberately snubbed Amazon. The allegations largely rely on tweets from the president, in addition to news articles citing unnamed sources.
The bulk of the complaint deals with intricacies of the procurement process and how Amazon suspects the evaluation system was rigged. The company goes on to claim that Amazon’s leading position as a cloud computing provider made it the natural choice to supply the Pentagon’s JEDI contact, which is designed to modernize and secure the US military’s networks across the globe. However, Trump’s influence allegedly prompted the Pentagon to level the playing field and skew the procurement process in favor of Microsoft, or what Amazon claims is an inferior solution.
“Any meaningful review of that decision reveals egregious errors on nearly every evaluation factor, from ignoring the unique strengths of AWS’s proposal, to overlooking clear failures in Microsoft’s proposal to meet JEDI’s technical requirements,” the complaint adds.
Amazon is calling on the US Court of Federal Claims to force the Pentagon to reboot the whole procurement process for the JEDI contract, and deny Microsoft the award. So far, the Defense Department hasn’t commented on the complaint. But Microsoft has weighed in.
“We have confidence in the qualified staff at the Department of Defense, and we believe the facts will show they ran a detailed, thorough, and fair process in determining the needs of the warfighter were best met by Microsoft,” Microsoft said in an email. “We’ve worked hard to continually innovate over the past two years to create better, differentiated offerings for our customer.”
Meanwhile, over the weekend, Amazon’s CEO told an audience at an industry forum that his company plans to continue to support the Pentagon on defense projects, despite losing out on the JEDI contract. “My view is that if big tech is turning their back on the Department of Defense, this country is in big trouble,” Bezos said, according to Reuters.