Many years ago when I was on active duty as a Marine officer in the 1980s, I went through cold weather training carrying a 1950s-era sleeping bag and “waterproof” clothing from the 1970s. At the time, I could have gone down to the local store and bought gear that would have kept me warm and dry, but alas that wasn’t yet in the USMC supply system. I was not happy about this. Also, I was cold and wet.
So when it comes to making sure the U.S. Military has the latest and best technology available, I’m a huge supporter, and the Department of Defense’s (DoD) decision to source a Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract to deliver the latest advancements in enterprise cloud could be a great step forward. But only if Amazon gets out of the way.
We received notice on Tuesday that Amazon has filed yet another protest – this time, out of view of the public and directly with the DoD – about their losing bid for the JEDI cloud contract. Amazon’s complaint is confidential, so we don’t know what it says. However, if their latest complaint mirrors the arguments Amazon made in court , it’s likely yet another attempt to force a re-do because they bid high and lost the first time.
The only thing that’s certain about Amazon’s new complaint is that it will force American warfighters to wait even longer for the 21st-century technology they need – perpetuating Amazon’s record of putting its own interests ahead of theirs.
This latest roadblock is disappointing but not surprising. As my colleague Jon Palmer made clear in a recent blog, Amazon wants a do-over on JEDI . As Jon wrote, “Amazon would have you believe that it lost the award because of bias at the highest levels of government. But Amazon, alone, is responsible for the pricing it offered. As the government explained in its brief: ‘AWS and Microsoft each had a fair chance to build pricing for the entire procurement, based on their overall business pricing.’ Amazon did build its pricing for the entire procurement, and it wasn’t good enough to win.”
From the DoD’s independent Inspector General’s report, to the court’s granting of a preliminary injunction, to refusing to even give the DoD a chance to address court’s narrowly scoped concerns, you have to ask, “When will enough be enough for Amazon? When will they say that they’ve been heard?”
This latest filing – filed with the DoD this time – is another example of Amazon trying to bog down JEDI in complaints, litigation and other delays designed to force a do-over to rescue its failed bid. Think about it: Amazon spent the better part of last month fighting in court to prevent the DoD from taking a 120-day pause to address a concern flagged by the judge and reevaluate the bids. Amazon fought for a complete re-do and more delay. Amazon lost. The judge granted the DoD’s request for a timeout in the litigation to address her concerns.
And now Amazon is at it again, trying to grind this process to a halt, keeping vital technology from the men and women in uniform – the very people Amazon says it supports. Why do this? Is it because the DoD won’t completely unwind the JEDI procurement process to the beginning? Again, we don’t know the content of Amazon’s complaint, as it avoids the public scrutiny of a court filing. But we do know that the changes DoD have made based on the judge’s ruling do not allow Amazon to undo its earlier business decision to bid high, which resulted in their loss. It does not allow Amazon to completely re-do its pricing, especially now that it knows Microsoft’s price and has a target to shoot at. And it does not allow Amazon to tilt the playing field in its favor.
Amazon may make a lot of noise about bias and interference, but the DoD’s independent Inspector General made it clear that the department established and followed a proper procurement process. And no one forced Amazon to bid high in the procurement. Amazon alone made the choice to bid high, but now wants to find a way to avoid the consequences of its own bad business decisions.
At the end of the day, putting the customer first is a good business strategy and one where Amazon has traditionally excelled. In this case, I think about the customer not as a singular “DoD” but as the individual soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who wants and deserves the very best tools to do their job. And the best way Amazon can put these customers first is to stand down on its litigation, stop asking for a do-over and let JEDI proceed.