Amazon hopes to halt Microsoft's work on Pentagon JEDI contract

AWS lawyers ask for injunction against work starting on disputed $10 billion contract

The Pentagon

Microsoft is set to start work on a controversial $10 billion cloud contract with the US military on 11 February, but not if Amazon has its way.

Last year, the Pentagon awarded the $10 billion contract for the Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure (JEDI) to Microsoft, tasking it with replacing ageing computers with a cloud network.

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By the time the contract was awarded, Amazon Web Services (AWS) was the only other supplier in the race for the work and seen as a front runner by some, saying at the time it was "surprised" to lose the deal. Reports in a book suggested that may well have happened because President Donald Trump told the Pentagon leadership to "screw Amazon" as part of a spat with the company's CEO Jeff Bezos. Weeks later, Amazon said it would appeal the decision in court.

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As part of the ongoing dispute, Amazon filed a court document yesterday revealing it will seek a preliminary injunction that will "prevent the issuance of substantive task orders under the contract", the filing says.

The three parties — the US government, Amazon and Microsoft — have already agreed on an expedited schedule for the court to consider the preliminary injunction, because the cloud system is considered important to national security, according to a report in Federal News Network. Amazon will file the formal request for an injunction by 24 January, with the other parties given a week to respond; the court should rule by the 11 February, when work is supposed to begin.

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One objection could simply be that Amazon has filed the injunction request too late to stop work, raising questions of why the company didn't make the request sooner in the case, which started at the end of November.

"The United States and Microsoft note that, in agreeing to the above schedule for briefing of AWS’s intended motion for temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction, they expressly reserve their right to object to the timeliness of AWS’s proposed motion," the filing notes.

The filing also shows the US government "does not intend to file an answer to AWS's complaint". That's reportedly common in bid protest cases, and means the government won't give much detail about why it handed the contract to Microsoft.

The Department of Defense has rejected Amazon's claims and the reports that Trump pressured staff to choose Microsoft over Amazon, and said the contract decision was made without bias or external influence.

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