CIA Gave Amazon Unfair Advantage To Win Cloud-Based Security Contract

Amazon recently won a $150 million contract for a massive intelligence community computer cloud, and now IBM is crying foul.

According to a Government Accountability Office ruling, the CIA gave Amazon an unfair advantage when it agreed to weaken security requirements for the project. That agreement arrived only after Amazon won the lucrative contract.

After winning the CIA bid, Amazon asked the intelligence agency for permission to only vouch for software it had built itself. In the meantime, third party and open source software would not be checked for viruses and backdoors by the team at Amazon.

IBM claims that it would have bid differently on the contract if third-party issues had been revealed during the bid process.

According to the Government Accountability Office, the CIA cloud setup is to be built on government property and therefore requires the highest level of security possible. The GAO notes that the system would include both infrastructure-as-a-service and software-as-a-service components.

The GAO writes:

“It is a fundamental principle of government procurement that competition must be conducted on an equal basis. Offerors must be treated equally and provided with a common basis for the preparation of their proposals.”


The GAO has suggested that the CIA re-bid the cloud contract and reimburse IBM for the cost of challenging the award. While Government Accountability Office rulings are not officially binding, they are typically followed.

The cloud-based data center would allow the CIA to store information at lower costs. Cloud computing has become a growing component of the online space with many companyies and organizations moving towards the shared space technology.

The GAO also says IBM was correct in assuming that the CIA unfairly adjusted bid pricing based on inconsistent standards.

IBM made other claims in its attempt to stop the Amazon bid, but those claims were thrown out by an independent auditor.