In another chapter to a saga that refuses to die, the US government has recommended [PDF] that the Supreme Court rejects Oracle’s efforts to overturn a Department of Defense decision to award the $10bn JEDI contract to Microsoft.
Acknowledging there were problems with the controversial contract award, which fellow bidder AWS is also contesting, these would not have affected Oracle’s chances of winning the deal, the government claimed in its brief. Security concerns over the geographic distribution of data centres were the main reason Big Red failed to win.
The US government asked the justices of the Supreme Court to reject Oracle’s challenge, saying that the Court of Federal Claims and the Federal Circuit had been correct in concluding that Oracle would need to show it had a “substantial chance” of winning the contract in order for procurement errors to be addressed.
The Federal Circuit in September affirmed a claims court decision finding that the Department of Defense’s failure to follow procurement law when it made the JEDI deal a single-award contract was a “harmless error”. It also concluded that conflicts of interest relating to former DoD employees’ relationships with AWS had not “tainted” the deal.
That court had found there was a legal error in the single-source approach and that “Oracle would not have been able to satisfy the requirements” to have already in place at least three commercial cloud-hosting data centres within the US, separated by at least 150 miles, and meet various other security requirements.
It had speculated that this requirement might have been eased under a multi-award procurement, but the DoD’s security risks would only “increase” under a multi-contract model, the government told the court in this week’s brief.
Oracle’s claim that conflicts of interest of three former Dept of Defense employees had allegedly tainted the procurement, had also been rejected in the Federal Circuit ruling. Although the latest court papers revealed the two were negotiating for employment with AWS at the time of the JEDI procurement, the DoD had already denied there had been any conflicts of interest after probing itself last year.
The $10bn decade-long contract was awarded to Microsoft in 2019 in a deal that is set to see the vendor host the US armed forces infrastructure in an effort to modernise and streamline IT operations.
AWS is also contesting the award but for different reasons to Oracle. It claimed in court filings last October that then President Trump had interfered in the Defense Department’s procurement process due to his apparent dislike of Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos.
Last month, the US Court for Federal Claims denied motions by the DoJ and Microsoft to dismiss the AWS suit challenging the Defense Department’s decision to pick the Windows giant as the winner. ®