Amazon Web Services files complaint in court over CIA contract

The U.S. Government Accountability Office sustained in June a protest by IBM against the award of the contract to AWS

Amazon Web Services has filed a complaint in a U.S. court after the Government Accountability Office sustained in part a protest by IBM against the award of a contract by the CIA for a cloud computing project.

IBM had challenged the evaluation of proposals and the selection decision in the award of the CIA contract for commercial cloud services to AWS in Seattle, Washington.

The bid protest complaint filed by AWS on Wednesday in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims is under seal as some of the information contained in it is under a protective order from the GAO.

"We believe strongly that the CIA got it right the first time. Providing true cloud computing services to the intelligence community requires a transformative approach with superior technology," AWS said in an emailed statement.

"We believe that the CIA selected AWS based on AWS' technically superior, best value solution, which will allow the Agency to rapidly innovate while delivering the confidence and security assurance needed for mission-critical systems. We look forward to a fast resolution so the Agency can move forward with this important contract," it added, without providing information on what AWS is asking from the court.

Amazon is seeking a response by Sept. 23 to its complaint, according to the filing. The contract to AWS is said to be worth about US$600 million, according to various reports.

Five companies including IBM, Microsoft, AT&T and Amazon, submitted proposals by closing time on July 13 last year. Protests by AT&T and Microsoft were found moot after the CIA amended its request for proposal (RFP) to remove contested mandatory qualification requirements. One unnamed company dropped out of the race.

The GAO in its ruling of June 6 said that IBM's protest was sustained because the evaluation of its price under one of the solicitation's price scenarios "was not calculated in such a way as to result in evaluation on a common basis," according to a redacted version of the ruling on the GAO website.

The GAO also found that the CIA relaxed a solicitation term only for AWS during post-selection negotiations, while rejecting a claim by IBM that the agency's evaluation of the past performance of a commercial cloud services provider improperly ignored information from news reports of service outages.

GAO recommended that the agency reopen the competition and amend the RFP as necessary to ensure that proposals "are prepared and evaluated on a common basis."

The CIA deal is important for AWS as it targets opportunities to set up clouds for governments in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

The Amazon.com company already runs AWS GovCloud in the U.S. for government agencies, and plans to set up similar "mini-clouds" or gated configurations for governments around the world, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels said in an interview recently.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
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