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14 Feb, 2020 01:19

What happened to ‘a country worth defending’, Bezos? Amazon gets judge to block Pentagon’s cloud contract over bias lawsuit

What happened to ‘a country worth defending’, Bezos? Amazon gets judge to block Pentagon’s cloud contract over bias lawsuit

Back when Amazon seemed guaranteed to get the Pentagon’s $10 billion ‘war cloud’ contract, Jeff Bezos argued Big Tech should work with the military. The richest man in the world changed his tune when the deal went to someone else.

“If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the Department of Defense, this country is in trouble,” Bezos argued in October 2018, before adding “This is a great country – it needs to be defended.”

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It was a pointed rebuke to social justice-minded Google employees, who had just managed to cancel their company’s AI contract with the DOD. At the time, the planet’s wealthiest CEO was looking forward to building the Pentagon’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI). The contract seemed tailor-made for Amazon Web Services (AWS) – or so Oracle argued in a bias lawsuit challenging it. 

Bezos did not fear the “woke” warriors; after all, he owned the Washington Post, the flagship newspaper of the anti-Trump #Resistance. For what was for him pocket change, the Post denounced the president daily, even as its owner stood to profit from his military spending spree.

Until the contract went to Microsoft, that is – and Bezos went orbital, and not in a Blue Origin capsule, either. He sued the Pentagon for bias, claiming that Trump’s mean tweets unfairly prejudiced the DOD against Amazon and led to the contract going to Redmond and not Seattle. AWS even demanded the depositions of Trump, as well as the current and former defense secretaries, as part of the process.

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Court of Federal Claims Judge Patricia E. Campbell-Smith sided with AWS on Thursday, issuing a temporary block on the contract in a ruling that was sealed for unspecified reasons. 

The Pentagon was “disappointed” by the ruling, which has “unnecessarily delayed” the modernization plans and deprived the troops of “a set of capabilities they urgently need,” according to DOD spokesman Lt. Colonel Robert Carver.

Amazon merely wants to ensure the contract process was “free of political interference,” the company’s top spokesman – and former press secretary for President Barack Obama – Jay Carney, told CNBC on Wednesday.

A cynic might say here that every Pentagon contract is political. Lockheed Martin gets thrown a trillion-dollar bone one day – hi, F-35! – while Northrop Grumman gets another (B-21) the next, all to ensure the military-industrial complex keeps soaking the US taxpayer for hundreds of billions every year. Never mind that all it gets the DOD are expensive and unreliable high-tech gizmos that at best gather dust, at worst break down in combat. Having rugged and reliable weapons is not the point, you see. Might make the military kill people and break things more efficiently, and that’s just not good for business.

The same cynic might further say that Amazon’s professed concern over fairness – rather than, say, getting its paws on managing the Pentagon’s cloud forever – is about as feigned as the Washington Post’s commitment to democracy that “dies in darkness,” or something. 

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If this is indeed a personal vendetta by Bezos, at least the courts have revealed its price tag, ordering AWS to set aside $42 million in “costs and damages” by February 20, in case the injunction is found to have been issued wrongfully. Given the Pentagon’s estimate – revealed in heavily redacted court filings – that it would suffer financial harm of “between 5 and 7 million dollars” every month that JEDI is delayed, this suggests the court wrangling will take at least six months.

The DOD intended to spend $45 million on JEDI this fiscal year and another $165 million in fiscal 2021, the court filings also disclosed. All this shows that talk of patriotism is cheap, but when this much money is on the line – all bets are off. 

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.