In late 2019, the Department of Defense announced its decision to award Microsoft a $10 billion contract. In winning what is known as the “JEDI” contract, Microsoft will soon embark on a 10-year process to transform the military’s cloud computing services. The government announced this project as part of the Pentagon’s efforts to modernize military technology. However, Amazon is seeking to halt Microsoft’s progress on the contract in a sealed filing with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims until a decision is reached on its bid protest.

Unlike contracts between two private parties, the government must follow formal procedures in choosing which private contractors it will hire. The hallmark of these procedures is that the government must commence a fair and open competition before awarding a federal contract. This competition usually begins with the government submitting a Request for Proposal (“RFP”), which describes the work that the government is seeking and the objective criteria that officials will evaluate. After the government chooses the best contractor, the losing contractors have the option to file a “bid protest” with either the U.S. Court of Federal Claims or the Government Accountability Office. A bid protest is essentially an argument that asserts the government failed to commence a fair and open competition.

Amazon’s bid protest accuses the Department of Defense of failing to provide a fair and open competition in awarding the JEDI contract because the agency was under the undue influence of President Donald Trump. It was widely speculated that Amazon would be the favorite for the contract because it had previously conducted similar work for the Central Intelligence Agency. However, Donald Trump is in a long-standing public feud with Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, over The Washington Post’s (owned by Bezos) coverage of the Trump Administration. According to a former speechwriter for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, President Trump privately informed officials that he did not want to award Amazon the JEDI contract.

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims will likely face a tough challenge in reviewing Amazon’s request to halt the contract. The Department of Defense will assert that allowing Microsoft to perform the terms of the contract before the protest is considered is in the interest of national security. On the other hand, it will be difficult to ignore the Trump Administration’s biases against Amazon, which are at odds with the basic principles of government contracting law.

Austin Maffei

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