Google Drops Out of Bidding for Massive Pentagon Cloud Contract
Oct 12 2018
Google won't bid for the Department of Defense's massive cloud contract because it could conflict with its AI principles against developing weapons.
The JEDI contract attracted widespread interest from technology companies struggling to catch up with Amazon in the burgeoning federal government market for cloud services.
Google's decision to drop out of Project Maven sparked a backlash in Washington at an inopportune time for the company as it tries to expand its business with the federal government.
According to Reuters, the company's AI principles bar using the software for weapons or with services that could potentially violate accepted global standards on human rights and surveillance.
Now that Google has backed out of the competition, Amazon and Microsoft are trying to win the rights to the $10bn project. Workers pressed that the company "should not be in the business of war" and urged Google to make clear policy stating that they will never "build warfare technology".
In addition to its concerns that some of the contract's terms might not align with its principles, Google also lacks some military clearances that would allow it to take up the assignment on its own.
An IBM executive familiar with the company's strategy confirmed Wednesday that the company has filed a pre-award bid protest with the Government Accountability Office, which rules on bid protests.
The JEDI contract is single-source, making it probable that only some of the nation's largest cloud providers - such as Microsoft - will be capable of delivering the entirety of the contract.
Defense Department officials said in early March that the $10 billion, 10-year contract would be bid out to a single cloud provider. However, there was discontent that there could only be one contract victor, with industry players stating their preference would have been for multiple providers to bid for and win the work.
Amazon Web Services is now the only company to have achieved an IL-6 security authorization, besting other competitors including Microsoft, Oracle Corp. and International Business Machines Corp. Amazon is seen as the likely frontrunner for the award, in part because of its work supporting classified activities for the CIA and the intelligence community. Some employees even resigned in protest.
The move comes following protests by Google employees on the tech giant's involvement in separate military effort known as Project Maven using artificial intelligence to help interpret video images.