Google won’t bid on $10 billion Pentagon cloud computing deal

Google dark clouds

Google dark clouds

The JEDI cloud contract would potentially have a much broader exposure to the Pentagon's advanced weapons systems.

Google has announced that it won't be bidding for a Pentagon computing contract valued at $10 billion amid fears the project doesn't align with the tech company's ethical values, following protests from its staff. Bidding on the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) began approximately two months ago, currently, the lead contender to receive the contract is Amazon who previously worked for the Central Intelligence Agency setting up their cloud but a number of other companies are involved in the bidding including Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM.

Those AI Principles bar the use of Google AI software being used in "weapons or other technologies whose principal goal or implementation is to cause or directly facilitate injury to people", in "technologies that gather or use information for surveillance violating internationally accepted norms", and in "technologies whose objective contravenes widely accepted principles of worldwide law and human rights".

The decision to drop out of the bidding comes after thousands of Google employees protested the company's involvement in another U.S. government project.

"We are not bidding on the JEDI contract because first, we couldn't be assured that it would align with our AI Principles", a Google spokesman said in a statement. In early June the company said it would drop out of a Defense Department project to apply its artificial intelligence algorithms to analyzing drone video, saying it would not apply for follow-on awards when its existing contract expires next year.

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The contract is winner-take-all, with Amazon seen as the frontrunner.

"We are making major progress in delivering this cloud created to meet the regulatory and compliance requirements of the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community", the exec wrote in a blog post today. Had the JEDI contract been open to multiple vendors, we would have submitted a compelling solution for portions of it.

In its statement on the JEDI bid, Google joined a chorus of commercial technology companies in criticizing the Pentagon's decision to award the contract to a single vendor, saying that a "multi-cloud" approach would have allowed the department to better match different solutions to different workloads. Some Google employees reportedly quit over the company's work on Project Maven, a drone initiative for the United States government that could weaponize their AI research.

Still, Google's decision to pull out was probably a smart one given that its chances of landing the contract were pretty slim, a second analyst said.

The long and costly process to gain authorization to sell cloud services to federal agencies can give technology companies a boost when they compete for government contracts.

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