Published: Fri, October 12, 2018
IT | By Darin Griffith

Google drops out of bidding for $10 billion Pentagon data deal

Google drops out of bidding for $10 billion Pentagon data deal

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.

The move comes as cloud service providers are competing for the DOD's $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract.

The bids for the $10 billion Department of Defense cloud computing contract are due by the end of the week, and Microsoft laid out its case for that business Tuesday in a blog post that highlighted its ability to secure the most sensitive government applications.

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The Tech Workers Coalition claimed pressure from Google employees was the true reason for Google's exit.

With Google out of the running, Amazon, Microsoft and Oracle look like the front-runners for JEDI. According to a noted United States newspaper, Pichai met important people from the office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, the Defense Department directorate which oversees the artificial intelligence drone system called Project Maven. Earlier this year, Defence One reported that Google co-founder Sergey Brin and CEO Sundar Pichai were instrumental in sparking the Pentagon's interest in cloud computing, though the company had only quietly pursued a contract amid fears of a strong reaction from rank and file staffers. Some Google employees reportedly quit over the company's work on Project Maven, which is a drone initiative from the U.S. government and Google employees believed that the project end up weaponizing the AI research.

The JEDI cloud contract would potentially have a much broader exposure to the Pentagon's advanced weapons systems. Google decided not to renew its work for Project Maven - which uses machine learning to analyze drone footage - after over 3,000 employees signed an open letter opposing building what they called "warfare technology".

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However, the firm does leave space for potential government collaboration stating that Google "will continue our work with governments and the military in many other areas". As only one company will be awarded the contract, Amazon is seen as the frontrunner. A dozen employees also resigned in protest.

Google's leadership and employees have been at odds over USA government contracts.

That the Pentagon could trust housing its digital data with Google would have been helpful to its marketing efforts with large companies.

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In a set of principles laid out to guide its development of artificial intelligence, Google also said it won't build AI for surveillance that violates "internationally accepted norms".

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