The judge agreed with Amazon. The ruling is sealed, but a summary of the document posted on the Public Access to Court Electronic Records website said the Pentagon is “hereby preliminarily enjoined from proceeding with contract activities … until further order of the court.” Amazon must provide $42 million in security, which will be held by the court until the case is closed, to cover any costs and damages if future court proceedings show the injunction was issued wrongfully, the summary says.
The legal decision gives a boost to Amazon’s case, at least in terms of public perception, according to Andrew Hunter, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and former acquisition official.
“As a legal matter, I don’t know [if] it will be that big of a win, but as a public relations matter it will definitely give them an opportunity,” he said. “Since their argument all along has been that anyone can see this wasn’t done properly, getting an injunction would very much be a reinforcement to that message.”
Thomas Spoehr, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense, says that granting the injunction means the judge believes Amazon’s case “meets the basic standards for having some chance of succeeding.”
Microsoft in October won the high-profile contract, which could be worth up to $10 billion over 10 years if all options are exercised. The program is intended to establish a common computing and data storage system that will allow the military to achieve some of its most advanced technology objectives, including integrating onto the battlefield more artificial intelligence capabilities, which require massive amounts of processing power and storage that are provided by a sophisticated cloud. The program will also allow for secure information sharing across the Defense Department, so intelligence can be shared among different platforms such as drones, aircraft or ships.
The award followed months of controversy, drawing the attention of lawmakers and administration officials. Trump took a personal interest in the JEDI competition ahead of the contract being awarded, asking officials in July to “look at it very closely” after hearing complaints about the contracting process from industry and lawmakers.
“I’m getting tremendous complaints about the contract with the Pentagon and with Amazon,” Trump said. “Some of the greatest companies in the world are complaining about it, having to do with Amazon and the Department of Defense, and I will be asking them to look at it very closely to see what’s going on.”
Trump’s public feud with Bezos and Amazon began before he even became president, including remarks he made at a campaign rally in 2016 predicting “problems” for the online retail giant if he wins the White House.
“I have respect for Jeff Bezos, but he bought The Washington Post to have political influence … he owns Amazon … he wants political influence so that Amazon will benefit from it,” Trump said as a candidate for president. “That’s not right. And believe me, if I become president, oh do they have problems. They are going to have such problems.”
Video of these remarks, along with three others, are central to Amazon’s complaint, which alleges that the Pentagon changed the requirements in a way to disadvantage the technology giant following these remarks from Trump.
“Under escalating and overt pressure from Trump, DoD departed from the rules of procurement and complied — consciously or subconsciously — with its Commander in Chief’s expressed desire to reject [Amazon Web Services]’s superior bid,” the complaint says. “Even if DoD were somehow immune from this presidential pressure — plainly, it is not — the many errors in its evaluation of AWS’s proposal alone nonetheless warrant reversal of the award decision.”
A second lawsuit against the Pentagon involving the JEDI contract is also ongoing. Oracle, which was cut from the program in an earlier round of decisions, has elevated its case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit after a lower court ruled in favor of the Defense Department. Oracle alleges that the Pentagon unfairly favored Amazon in the competition.