Google Pulls Out of Crucial Pentagon's Cloud Computing Competition

Nichole VegaOct 12, 2018

"Google Cloud enables us to make full use of the data we own, opening up new opportunities and enabling us to build new businesses".

The company filed the bid protest with the Government Accountability Office just ahead of this Friday's deadline for vendors to submit JEDI, or Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, proposals. According to those principles, Google will not design or deploy AI that can cause harm or injury to people, that can gather information for surveillance that "violates internationally accepted norms", or that violates global law and human rights principles.

Developing the system "will revolutionize how we fight and win wars", Defense Department chief information officer Dana Deasy said in a recent interview. "Had the JEDI contract been open to multiple vendors, we would have submitted a compelling solution for portions of it", it said.

Google has ended its bid for a Pentagon contract of $10 billion for a cloud computing project, it announced on Monday. The search giant plans to continue working with the military though its guidelines prohibit the use of AI in weaponry.

Microsoft said this week it is set to receive the United States government's top security clearance early next year, as it prepares to bid for a Pentagon cloud contract worth up to $10 billion (£7.7bn). The move was welcomed by the Tech Workers Coalition which posted the news to their Twitter account with the words: "Respect to workers who forced Google to state ethical principles". Also, says the company, parts of the project are out of scope of its current government certifications.

The JEDI cloud contract would potentially have a much broader exposure to the Pentagon's advanced weapons systems. Having one company to run everything is not only bad practice, IBM argued, but is also less secure, since it gives an attacker only one target to aim at and only one target to bring down. But more than 3,000 Google employees had signed a petition against the company's involvement in the project because they thought that the study and the imagery could eventually be used to improve drone strikes in the battlefield.

Bidding for the JEDI program began two months ago and ends this week.

Microsoft is stepping up its government cloud campaigning just ahead of the closing of the bids for the Pentagon's $10 billion, winner-take-all JEDI cloud contract. Some employees even resigned in protest.

Google dropped out of the JEDI race yesterday, which leaves Microsoft and market leader Amazon among the strongest competitors.

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