UPDATED 12:43 EDT / FEBRUARY 10 2020


AWS seeks testimony from Trump, Defense Secretary Esper in JEDI legal battle

Amazon Web Services Inc. is doubling down on its challenge to the Pentagon’s award of a lucrative cloud computing contract to Microsoft Corp.

Amazon.com Inc.’s cloud company has filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims requesting that President Donald Trump and other high-ranking officials testify about the government’s $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Initiative cloud computing contract.

JEDI was awarded by the Department of Defense to Microsoft late last year after AWS had been widely expected to land the deal. Shortly thereafter, the Amazon.com Inc. subsidiary submitted a protest against Microsoft’s win to the Federal Claims Court, a legal effort that the deposition request will likely thrust further into the spotlight. It was filed Jan. 17 but was only new unsealed.

Prior to asking that Trump testify, AWS argued the president interfered in the JEDI award process through “public and behind-the-scenes attacks” against Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos. AWS Chief Executive Andy Jassy echoed this point during a November interview with SiliconANGLE in which he said that there was “a significant amount of political interference” in the decision.

AWS wrote in its newly unsealed deposition request that “while other individuals can testify about specific conversations he had with them individually, President Trump is the only individual who can testify about the totality of his conversations and the overall message he conveyed. Moreover, President Trump has unique knowledge about whether he had other, previously undisclosed conversations with individuals not previously identified, and who therefore do not appear on the deposition list.”

AWS is furthermore seeking the testimony of Defense Secretary Mark Esper, DOD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy, the Source Selection Authority that supervised the contract awarding decision and the latter body’s chairpersons. Lastly, and perhaps with the most interesting outcome, the cloud giant has asked the court to depose Esper’s predecessor, James Mattis. One of the items AWS previously cited to support its argument of bias in the JEDI award process is a book by Mattis’ onetime head speechwriter that claims Trump had told the former defense secretary to “screw Amazon.”

An AWS spokesperson said that “the preservation of public confidence in the nation’s procurement process requires discovery and supplementation of the administrative record, particularly in light of President Trump’s order to ‘screw Amazon.’”

The White House and DOD declined to comment. A decision on the motion is reportedly expected within weeks.

AWS’ filing comes as the Federal Appeals Court is still weighing its earlier motion for a temporary restraining order to block Microsoft from conducting work related to JEDI. The request, submitted late last month, followed remarks from Microsoft President Brad Smith in which the executive indicated that the company had already started laying the ground for the project.

As the legal battle over the $10 billion JEDI project heats up, another, potentially even more lucrative government cloud computing contract is reportedly being drafted. The Central Intelligence Agency recently said that it plans to hire multiple cloud providers for a technology modernization program dubbed the Commercial Cloud Enterprise initiative. The project is expected to be worth “tens of billions of dollars” over its lifespan. 

Photo: David B. Gleason/Flickr

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