Welcome to government work. Amazon Web Services, in a filing made public Tuesday, slammed the Government Accountability Office for putting its winning bid to build the CIA’s public cloud on hold. IBM, which lost the bid although its price came in below that of AWS, contested the award and the GAO upheld two of IBM’s claims, in effect putting the bid back in play.
In the convoluted government procurement process, when a company that wins a contract is challenged on that win (and that challenge is upheld), it often ends up taking the would-be customer — in this case the CIA — to court. That is essentially what happened here but the real focus of Amazon’s ire is the GAO and cloud rival IBM.
The CIA, as is usually the case, followed the GAO’s recommendation to re-bid the work with new RFP (request for proposal) bids due on Aug. 16, according to the filing. AWS is asking the U.S. Federal Court of Claims to overrule the GAO’s finding in which case, the CIA would not have to follow the GAO recommendation.
No one thought either AWS or IBM would let this matter rest. The CIA cloud work is worth far more than the purported $600 million value of the contract itself: Whichever company claims this prize will find it easier to gain traction in other government cloud efforts. Tech vendors and systems integrators are in a frenzy trying to win more of this business under the federal government’s “cloud-first” policy. Check out last week’s scrum over the Department of Interior cloud work as Exhibit A.
As has been disclosed in previously released GAO documents, AWS’s “evaluated price” for the CIA cloud was $148.6 million compared to $93.9 million for IBM. And it appears from the comparison table included in the filing that the AWS bid got better grades across the board in the CIA’s evaluation.