Microsoft expands cloud service in push for $10 billion Pentagon contract

Joanna Estrada
October 9, 2018

Google's principles prevent it from getting involved in projects in which its software could be used in weapons or to violate human rights.

The company also defended itself when AI top gun Dr. Fei-Fei Li announced last month that she was leaving Google, saying the move didn't have any relation with the military controversy.

The Department of Defense's JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure) project could have worth up to $10 billion.

Google opted out of the JEDI bidding on October 8, claiming the contract might fail to align with its AI principles - and (more importantly) because it didn't have some of the required government certifications.

The bidding process is due to end this week, but Google will now not be taking part. 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. Several companies, including Oracle, IBM and Microsoft, were working together to oppose the winner-take-all approach, rather than splitting the contract among multiple vendors.

Top Pentagon officials have said the JEDI contract would account for about 16 percent of the Department's overall cloud computing work, subsuming numerous Defense Department's existing cloud efforts.

"Had the JEDI contract been open to multiple vendors, we would have submitted a compelling solution for portions of it", a Google spokesperson said.

The contract, known as Project Maven, is created to automate the analysis of surveillance footage collected by USA military drones, a task that has for years been handled directly by US airmen. "Google Cloud believes that a multi-cloud approach is in the best interest of government agencies, because it allows them to choose the right cloud for the right workload".

But thousands of Google employees this year protested use of Google's technology in warfare or in ways that could lead to human rights violations.

Shortly after the protest over Maven, Google said it would not renew the contract or pursue similar military contracts. 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 worldwide law and human rights principles. The company responded by releasing principles for use of its artificial intelligence tools. The company faces allegations from President Donald Trump and his allies that it biases search results against politically conservative sources.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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