Google withdraws $10bn Pentagon cloud bid amid ethical concerns

Google dark clouds

Google pulls out of competition for $10B Pentagon cloud contract

Google, which is far behind its peers in obtaining government cloud-security authorizations, said Monday it has decided not to compete for the JEDI project, in part because of a potential conflict with its corporate values on uses of artificial intelligence.

The company wrote those ethical principles after employees strongly opposed its contract renewal for a separate Pentagon program called Project Maven, which aims to develop algorithms that can flag drone images for human review.

"We are not bidding on the JEDI contract because first, we couldn't be assured that it would align with our AI principles and second, we determined that there were portions of the contract that were out of scope with our current government certifications", a Google representative said in the statement, adding that the company works with the USA government in many areas. It also comes just months after Google employees protested en masse over the company's work with the United States military.

"At most of the major defense contractors' front offices you'll see American flags. you don't really see that at Google", William Schneider Jr., a former Reagan administration acquisitions official who's a senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute, said in a briefing that he said was funded by Microsoft and Oracle.

IBM also claims that the unusual procedures for taking bids on the JEDI contract are discriminatory, since they seem created to prefer one particular vendor over another.

Google came under fire when details about the company working with the Pentagon first went public back in June.

Google had been angling for the deal, hoping that the $10 billion annual contract could provide a giant boost to its nascent cloud business and catch up with Amazon and fellow JEDI competitor Microsoft.

According to a new report from The Washington Post, which cites a company executive, IBM has filed a protest against the Pentagon's plan to pick one vendor only on grounds that it restricts competition. The company says that this particular project is not in line with its AI policies, but it will continue to work with the USA government in other ways.

The JEDI contract has been a source of controversy in the past, but that was mostly due to the DOD's decision to award it to a single cloud service provider.

The front-runner for the contract is widely believed to be Amazon, which already has a $US600 million contract with the Central Intelligence Agency.

"And second, we determined that there were portions of the contract that were out of scope with our current government certifications", the spokesman added.

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