Amazon Web Services is taking the CIA to court, according to several reports on Thursday. The complaint filed in the US Court of Federal Claims challenges CIA action taken on the recommendation of the Government Accountability Office, after a bid protest by IBM was successful in blocking a $600 million contract for cloud services.
In January 2013 the CIA selected a bid by AWS to build a private cloud for the entire US intelligence community. The next month IBM filed its bid protest with the GAO, protesting the CIA’s decision on three different grounds.
In rendering its June decision, the GAO rejected IBM’s contention that the CIA had incorrectly assessed its auto-scaling capabilities, but sided with the protest on the other two counts. The GAO determined that different interpretations of the criteria by the two companies had led to price evaluations which were not comparable, and also that the Agency had subsequently relaxed a bid requirement pertaining to third party software.
In response, the CIA undertook a corrective action which is not available to the public, but may not involve reopening the bid process. The complaint filed by AWS challenges both the need for the action and its scope.
“We believe strongly that the CIA got it right the first time,” an AWS spokeswoman said. “Providing true cloud computing services to the intelligence community requires a transformative approach with superior technology. 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.”
The procurement contract was already pulled back in 2012, and AWS has asked the court to rule on its complaint by September 23. According to Washington Technology, the complaint may be a preemptive move against a future bid protest by IBM, in the event that the contract is awarded to AWS for a second time.
While AWS is the world’s largest provider of public cloud infrastructure, it has only recently become FedRAMP compliant. This compliance allows Amazon to compete for large US government IT contracts, which have long been a significant part of IBM’s business.
According to FCW.com, it is not uncommon for companies to collaborate to fulfill contracts after successful bid protests. It is also possible, however, that the contract will simply be awarded to Amazon again under the new conditions.