February 16, 2019

Google won’t bid on $10 billion Pentagon cloud computing deal

11 October 2018, 07:00 | Cameron Gross

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

Google dark clouds

Google dropped out of the competition for a crucial Pentagon cloud computing contract valued at over $10 billion, the company confirms with Business Insider.

A Microsoft logo is seen in Los Angeles, California U.S. November 7, 2017.

Without saying much, Google simply said that the contract doesn't "align" with the company's AI principles. In early March, Microsoft also announced a cloud-based environment for the Department of Defense as part of its Microsoft 365 for US Government offering.

Google drew up a new policy on artificial intelligence this year, following staff complaints about its work with the USA government on use of AI in weapons systems. Other major cloud service providers - Amazon and Microsoft - have also been criticized by their employees for working with the military and other defense projects.

Microsoft now offers 50 services across its USA regions that are authorized at the Federal Risk Authorization Management Program's Moderate level, meaning that a loss of confidentiality, integrity and availability on those systems would result in "serious adverse effects on an agency's operations, assets or individuals". After working with the US Airforce on its Project Maven drone AI initiative, an uprising of protest from Google employees led to the firm declining to proceed to a second contract. A dozen people resigned before Google pledged to ditch Project Maven but "continue our work with governments and the military".

Gordy went beyond the debate over a single-source contract, arguing that the requirements the Pentagon outlined either mirror a certain vendor's internal processes - he didn't mention Amazon by name - or unnecessarily mandate that certain capabilities be in place by the bid submission date instead of when the work would begin.

"We couldn't be assured that it would be aligned with our artificial intelligence (AI) principles", Aileen Black, an executive director at Google, said of the JEDI contract. According to the Pentagon, the contract will only choose one provider to work with, as it believes that a multiple-award contract "could prevent DOD from rapidly delivering new capabilities and improved effectiveness to the warfighter that enterprise-level cloud computing can enable".

In its statement, Google said it would have been able to support "portions" of the JEDI deal had joint bids been allowed. More than 4,000 employees signed a petition demanding "a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology". Recently, the Office of Management and Budget issued a new government-wide cloud strategy, "cloud smart", that specifically emphasizes the need for multi-cloud and hybrid solutions and calls for a "technology neutral" approach. The move increases pressure on the Defense Department to defend its requirements for the contract.

Bids were due to be submitted on Friday with Amazon Web Services now the clear favourite to win.

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