Amazon will appeal the Trump administration’s decision to grant a $10bn defence contract to its rival Microsoft, accusing the US government of having shown “unmistakable bias” in its procurement process.
The company said on Thursday it was lodging a legal case against the decision, following accusations that Donald Trump manipulated the process to harm Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder.
The Pentagon awarded the so-called Jedi cloud computing contract to Microsoft last month after several rounds of bidding, a legal challenge from one of the bidders, and a last-minute intervention by the US president.
An Amazon spokesperson said in a statement: “AWS [Amazon’s cloud computing service] is uniquely experienced and qualified to provide the critical technology the US military needs, and remains committed to supporting the Department of Defence’s modernisation efforts.
“We also believe it’s critical for our country that the government and its elected leaders administer procurements objectively and in a manner that is free from political influence. Numerous aspects of the Jedi evaluation process contained clear deficiencies, errors, and unmistakable bias — and it’s important that these matters be examined and rectified.”
The Pentagon refused to comment on what it called “potential litigation”.
Four companies originally bid for the contract, which has been bitterly fought over as it would allow one company to handle much of the Pentagon’s data and communication systems.
Microsoft and Amazon were the two bidders to be shortlisted, and the path seemed to have been cleared for a final decision earlier this year after judges dismissed a legal challenge from Oracle, one of those not shortlisted.
Many had expected Amazon to win the contract, given it is the only company currently able to encrypt data to the “top secret” level the Pentagon requires.
However Mr Trump threw the process into doubt at the last moment, warning that “great companies” had complained about it. His words were interpreted as an attack on Amazon, as he named Oracle, IBM and Microsoft — the other three bidders — as the complainants.
Mr Trump has regularly clashed with Mr Bezos, not least over his ownership of the Washington Post newspaper. A book by a former Pentagon official released last month claimed Mr Trump wanted to “screw” Amazon by denying it the Jedi contract.
Amazon would not give any further details on its legal appeal. But according to a report in the Federal Times earlier on Thursday, Andy Jassy, the Amazon AWS chief executive, told staff earlier in the day he wanted to “shine a light” on the process.
The magazine said it had obtained a video in which Mr Jassy told Amazon employees: “I think when you have a sitting president who’s willing to publicly show his disdain for a company and the leader of a company, it’s very difficult for government agencies including the DoD to make an objective decision without fear of reprisal.”
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