Amazon accuses Trump of 'improper pressure' to influence Pentagon contract decision

Amazon accuses Trump of 'improper pressure' to influence Pentagon contract decision
© UPI Photo

Amazon is accusing President Trump of exerting "improper pressure" to influence the Pentagon to award a lucrative cloud-computing contract to Microsoft instead of Amazon, which was a clear front-runner before Trump began intervening in the process over the summer.

In a court filing made public on Monday, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Amazon's cloud-computing arm, alleged that Trump engaged in "public and behind-the-scenes attacks" to steer the contract away from AWS out of spite for his "perceived political enemy — Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosHillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Bezos phone breach raises fears over Saudi hacking | Amazon seeks to halt Microsoft's work on 'war cloud' | Lawmakers unveil surveillance reform bill Overnight Defense: Doomsday Clock ticks closer to midnight | Military shares details on Kenyan base attack | Amazon asks court to halt work on Pentagon 'war cloud' UK court grants Saudi dissident ability to sue Saudi Arabia over alleged hack MORE," the CEO and owner of Amazon as well as The Washington Post. 

Trump has targeted Bezos, who owns the Post, a newspaper that he has accused of bias against him, and called for a review of the contract over the summer.

ADVERTISEMENT

"The publicly available record of President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff pleads to Senate GOP: 'Right matters. And the truth matters.' Anita Hill to Iowa crowd: 'Statute of limitations' for Biden apology is 'up' Sen. Van Hollen releases documents from GAO investigation MORE's statements and actions demonstrates that he repeatedly attacked and vilified his perceived political enemy - Mr. Bezos, the founder and CEO of AWS's parent company, Amazon, and who separately owns the Washington Post and then intervened in this procurement process to thwart the fair administration of DoD's procurement of technology and services critical to the modernization of the U.S. military," Amazon wrote in the filing.

Amazon is asking the court to declare that the award was not doled out legally, and is seeking to prevent the Pentagon from moving forward with Microsoft. If Amazon wins its challenge, the Department of Defense (DOD) would have to start the bidding process over.

While it's relatively common for companies to protest government contract award decisions in court, Amazon's case in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims is unprecedented as one of the largest companies in the country takes on the president himself over allegations of improper intervention and personal animus.

The cloud-computing contract, dubbed the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract – or JEDI – is worth up to $10 billion and enables one company to develop the cloud infrastructure across the entire DOD. The contract will allow Microsoft to develop cloud-computing infrastructure for the U.S. military for up to 10 years, ending in October 2029. The deal bolsters Microsoft's position in the multi-billion dollar cloud-computing "wars."

Amazon's case revolves around whether the Pentagon's decision to award the contract to Microsoft in October was swayed by Trump, and argues that Amazon was the "consensus" frontrunner before Trump intervened.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Since the JEDI procurement was announced, the President has reaffirmed his hostility towards Amazon and, as even the public record strongly suggests, has used his office to prevent AWS from winning the JEDI Contract," Amazon wrote.

Amazon is the No. 1 player in the cloud-computing space with an approximately 48 percent market share. And the military has given AWS, which provides cloud-computing for the CIA, its highest data-management certification, while Microsoft's certification is one level lower.

Industry watchers were stunned by the Pentagon's decision to award the contract to Microsoft, pointing out that Amazon seemed to be best-positioned to take on the task. But Microsoft is also a popular cloud-computing partner for the federal government and the Pentagon has maintained that the company was simply best-equipped to create the DOD's cloud infrastructure.

Dana Deasy, the Pentagon's chief information officer, has denied that Trump improperly influenced the JEDI decision.

A DOD spokeswoman on Monday said there were "no external influences" on the decision to award the JEDI contract to Microsoft over Amazon.

ADVERTISEMENT

"This source selection decision was made by an expert team of career public servants and military officers from across the Department of Defense and in accordance with DOD's normal source-selection process," said Elissa Smith. "There were no external influences on the source selection decision. The department is confident in the JEDI award and remains focused on getting this critical capability into the hands of our warfighters as quickly and efficiently as possible."

Smith declined to comment on specific claims in litigation "at this time."

--This report was updated at 11:34 a.m.