A federal court said Wednesday that it does not deny the possibility of former President Donald J. Trump intervening in awarding a $ 10 billion military cloud computing contract, a decision that could lead to overhaul a long-term effort to modernize technology in the Department of Defense.
The decision could be a win for Amazon, which claims it was passed during the contract considerations because of Mr. Trump’s hatred of the founder Jeff Bezos. But the Department of Defense has hinted that it will cancel the contract entirely if the lawsuit over it drags on, losing Amazon’s chance to secure a multibillion-dollar deal.
A 10-year contract for a Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, known as JEDI, was awarded to Microsoft in 2019 following a fierce battle between Amazon and other tech giants for a lucrative deal to military cloud computing system modernization.
But Amazon sued to block the contract, arguing that Microsoft did not have the technical capabilities to meet the needs of the military, and the process was somewhat biased towards Amazon because Trump repeatedly criticized Bezos.
Mr Bezos owns The Washington Post, which has strongly reported on the Trump administration, and Mr Trump calls the newspaper the “Amazon Washington Post” and accuses it of spreading “fake news”.
Mr Trump said other firms should be considered for the JEDI contract and Amazon argued that he used “inappropriate pressure” to shake the Pentagon when they chose a technology supplier.
Douglas Stone, an Amazon spokesman, said: “The former President Trump’s record of inappropriate influence is disturbing and we are pleased that the court will consider its significant impact on the award. JEDI contract bonus. “We continue to expect judicial review of many material flaws in DOD’s assessment and we remain absolutely committed to ensuring that the department has access to the best technology at the best price. . “
The Department of Defense said Trump played no role in the decision. Microsoft says Amazon’s claims of bias lack evidence and are prepared to deliver the necessary technology to the military.
Frank X. Shaw, a spokesman for Microsoft, said: “The ruling on this procedure has changed little” because the Department of Defense has sided with Microsoft twice. “We have continued for over a year to carry out the internal work needed to move up to JEDI quickly.”
Much of the military operates on outdated computer systems, and the Department of Defense has spent billions of dollars trying to modernize those systems while protecting classified documents.
Last February, Judge Patricia E. Campbell-Smith of the Federal Declaration Court ordered Microsoft to suspend the contract until Amazon’s legal challenge was resolved. A Pentagon spokesman said at that time it was not necessary, and at the same time reversed the Defense Department’s efforts to update technology.
The Pentagon warned Congress in January that it would explore other ways to respond to the Defense Department’s need for cloud computing if the court agrees to hear debates about Mr. Trump’s role.
Claims that Mr. Trump leans to the scale against Amazon “will need to be sued fundamentally” and will require top Pentagon officials and former White House aide, Office of Chief Information Officer of the Department of Defense said in a letter to Congress. .
“The prospect of such a lengthy litigation could put the future of JEDI’s cloud-based shopping into doubt,” the office said in its letter.
The Defense Department’s first priority, the letter added, is to put technology in the hands of service members, and further delay would be unreasonable. “This requirement goes through any procurement and we will be prepared to ensure it is being met in one way or another.”
Earlier this month, the Ministry of Defense urged the court to update the case-handling process. “Continued delay in initiating implementation under JEDI entails continuing, and to some extent, impacting national security,” Brian Boynton, the acting assistant attorney general, wrote in a petition. to the court.
A Defense Department spokesman declined to comment on the verdict.
Judge Campbell-Smith declined requests from Microsoft and the Department of Defense to dismiss claims of Amazon meddling. In her petition to the court, she asked the companies and agencies to come up with plans on how to proceed next month.
If the lawsuit continues, Amazon could require deposits with former Trump administration officials to back up its claims of interference.
Daniel Ives, chief executive of equity research at Wedbush Securities, said: “The issue of Trump’s intervention poses a huge turning point in the ointment for DOD. “They can try to fix the deal, go back to the square, or go ahead and reward it for Microsoft despite the legal battle. The JEDI story was disappointing to all parties. “