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Amazon Seeks Internal Pentagon Documents in JEDI Cloud Case

Naomi Nix

(Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc. has asked a court to force the government to hand over documents related to Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s decision to recuse himself from making decisions on a $10 billion cloud-services contract.

In a court filing made public on Friday, Amazon seeks a trove of documents to bolster its challenge of the Pentagon’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, cloud contract that was awarded to Microsoft Corp. in October.

Amazon Web Services, Amazon’s cloud unit, is also asking the U.S Court of Federal Claims to require the government to turn over materials that shed light on the role that Stacy Cummings, a deputy assistant secretary of defense, played in the procurement.

Cummings communicated with the team evaluating JEDI bids and worked on preparations for JEDI-related meetings involving Esper, the lawsuit said. She recused herself from working on the procurement in September 2019, according to the lawsuit.

In a previous filing, government lawyers argued that Amazon is “not entitled” to all materials relating to the recusals of Cummings and Esper. They added that Cummings had a conflict with Microsoft, that “did not impact the procurement.”

Other files Amazon seeks include “informal notes” between the bid selection team members, JEDI-related content on digital channels and procurement documents that were presented to Esper and Deputy Secretary David Norquist.

Representatives for the Defense Department and Microsoft didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Amazon filed a lawsuit in November in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims alleging that the Defense Department failed to fairly judge its bid because President Donald Trump viewed Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos as his “political enemy.”

Amazon asked the court earlier this month to allow it to question Trump, Esper, former Defense Secretary James Mattis, and Dana Deasy, the Pentagon’s chief information officer.

In August 2019, the newly confirmed Esper ordered a review of the procurement after Trump endorsed criticism that the Pentagon had given Amazon an unfair advantage with the contract’s design.

The Pentagon announced in October that Esper would recuse himself from any decisions involving the contract to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Esper’s son worked as a consultant for International Business Machines Corp., which along with Oracle Corp., had earlier been eliminated from the competition.

Three days after Esper’s recusal, the Pentagon announced it had chosen Microsoft, an upset victory for the company that many in the industry viewed as a distant second to Amazon.

“A complete factual record on the bases for these recusals is especially critical in light of the well-grounded allegations AWS has made about the troubling circumstances surrounding the recusals of DoD personnel,” the lawsuit said.

The Pentagon’s JEDI project is designed to consolidate the department’s cloud computing infrastructure and modernize its technology systems. Earlier this month, a judge agreed to block Microsoft from working on the contract while Amazon’s lawsuit is being litigated.

To contact the reporter on this story: Naomi Nix in Washington at nnix1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sara Forden at sforden@bloomberg.net, Paula Dwyer

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