By Peyton Bigora
A federal judge in Washington has halted, for now, a major U.S. Defense Department cyber contract, blocking Microsoft Corp. from working on the Pentagon’s JEDI cloud-computing initiative pending the resolution of a lawsuit brought by rival Amazon.com.
In October, Microsoft was awarded the Pentagon’s Joint Enterprise Defense infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract, which has an estimated worth of around $10 billion over the next decade. The JEDI project will process and store classified data to provide the U.S. military improved communications with soldiers in the field as well as artificial intelligence to speed up war planning and fighting capabilities.
By November, Amazon Web Services, the company’s cloud computing division, filed a lawsuit alleging the Defense Department unfairly judged its bid for the contract. Amazon believes the process was tainted by U.S. President Donald Trump’s animosity towards Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s Chief Executive Officer and owner of The Washington Post newspaper, which Trump has regularly accused of bias against him.
Court of Federal Claims Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith said the JEDI contract cannot continue to be enacted “until further order of the court.” Judge Campbell-Smith’s full opinion was sealed.
While Amazon scored at least a preliminary victory, it is required to create a $42 million security fund that will be used to pay for any damages if the court later finds the injunction was improper.
Earlier this week, Amazon asked the U.S. Court of Federal Claims to allow them to question Trump and top Pentagon leaders, including former defense secretary James Mattis and Defense Secretary Mark Esper about any political interference from the White House in the awarding of the contract.
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“We believe that we will ultimately be able to move forward with the work to make sure those who serve our country can access the new technology they urgently require,” said Microsoft’s spokesman Frank Shaw, adding that he is disappointed by the ruling and believes the Pentagon’s decision-making process was fair. (VOA)