The Department of the Interior's request for proposals to provide the agency with e-mail service is written to exclude Google, the company claims.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

November 1, 2010

3 Min Read

Google and one of its cloud service resellers, Onix Networks, filed a lawsuit on Friday against the U.S. government for contract requirements that make the companies unable to compete against Microsoft in a bid for government business.

The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) is seeking a hosted e-mail and collaboration solution to serve its 88,000 users. The contract is estimated to be worth $59 million over five years.

Google wants to compete for the government contract but the Request for Quotations (RFQ) "specified that only the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite-Federal (BPOS-Federal) could be proposed."

Google claims that a "Limited Source Justification" directive issued by the agency's director of the Office of Acquisition and Property Management on August 30, 2010, represents single-source procurement "that is arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of direction, and otherwise contrary to law."

This the second time in recent months that Google has allegedly run into this problem. The company made similar claims informally following the State of California's decision to award a hosted e-mail contract to Microsoft last month.

California officials denied Google's claims that the state's process was unfair.

Google's lawsuit against the federal government describes a courtship with DOI officials that began in June, 2009, during which, the company alleges, it received tips that Microsoft's success in the bidding process was pre-ordained.

Google says that despite initial contact with the agency which led the company to believe that it could meet the DOI's requirements, things changed following a meeting in April, 2010. The agency's CTO, William Corrington, allegedly told Google representatives that "'a path forward had already been chosen' for the DOI messaging solution and there would be no opportunity for Google to compete because its product was not compliant with DOI's security requirements."

Google says that the DOI declined to provide those security requirements or meet with company representatives to discuss Google Apps security.

When Google representatives finally met with DOI officials in June, 2010, to clarify the capabilities of the company's products, Google says that it received mixed messages about the status of the DOI's contract. The company says it confronted agency officials about rumors that Microsoft's BPOS had already been selected and that DOI officials had responded that those rumors were unfounded.

Yet in August, 2010, Google contacted DOI officials about those assurances and presented "a DOI screenshot, which indicated that a 'pilot' project to migrate 5,000 DOI users to the Microsoft platform had been underway for months."

In its complaint, Google takes issue with the DOI's assumption that Microsoft BPOS is the only solution that can meet its requirements. It notes that "Microsoft topped a list of 12 major software security providers for the number of security vulnerabilities and software patches needed to plug security holes" and that Google was the only provider on the list with no zero-day disclosures.

Google also cites a four-day BPOS-Standard outage in January, 2010, to suggest that BPOS-Federal might not meet the DOI's uptime requirements.

Neither Google nor Microsoft responded immediately to requests for comment.

A spokesperson for the Department of the Interior said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

Keep up with the latest cybersecurity threats, newly discovered vulnerabilities, data breach information, and emerging trends. Delivered daily or weekly right to your email inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights