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Google Gets Second Chance on Fed E-Mail Contract Won by Microsoft

The Interior Department can't  award a noncompetitive contract to Microsoft, a federal judge has ruled. 

"Interior violated the Competition in Contracting Act and relevant [Federal Acquisition Regulation] provisions and that such violation was prejudicial to Google's interests," U.S. Federal Claims Court Judge Susan Braden wrote.

UBraden ruled on Jan. 3 that negotiations for a sole source contract with Microsoft "commenced many months prior to July 15, 2010," when department officials decided Microsoft's software was their standard for e-mail and computer operating systems. Meanwhile, Google had been trying to get considered for the work as well.

The contract is a first step in establishing a framework that could result in the department adding more than 80,000 e-mail mailboxes as well as other messaging and collaboration services.

Despite limiting the competition, Interior officials knew Google had the means to do the work and was interested in competing for it, the judge held. By July 22, Interior officials were aware that Google had a government-only version of the Google Apps software and claimed it had obtained the necessary information security certifications, according to the court's decision filed Jan. 4.

"Interior violated the Competition in Contracting Act and relevant [Federal Acquisition Regulation] provisions and that such violation was prejudicial to Google's interests," Braden wrote.

Google sued last October, asking for a preliminary injunction on awarding a contract. The company has been frustrated several times in its efforts to compete against Microsoft for cloud offerings.

Braden added that there was no wrongdoing on Microsoft's part, but actions that "show only competitive zeal and interest in customer satisfaction."

Interior officials declined to comment because the litigation is ongoing. 

According to a TechFlash article, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer personally met with Department of Interior officials before Microsoft initially secured the contract win.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is acquisition editor for 1105 Media's Federal Computer Week.

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