Google is dropping out of the bidding for a huge Pentagon cloud computing contract that could be worth up to $10 billion, saying the deal would be inconsistent with its principles.
The software company said Tuesday that it will earn the certification required to host the government's most sensitive and classified information - a distinction previously held only by Amazon Web Services - by the end of the first quarter of 2019.
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With Google out of the running, Amazon, Microsoft and Oracle look like the front-runners for JEDI. The change of plans comes after employees at Google protested and some resigned at what they considered the company's enabling of warfare technology, and called for corporate policy to prevent Google to work in the future on any harmful technologies.
In June 2018 Google published a set of principles for its artificial intelligence research, with the company stating that it will not use its AI technology to create "weapons or other technologies whose principal goal or implementation is to cause of directly facilitate injury to people". Having been unable to obtain assurance that JEDI would not be used in this way, the company made a decision to pull out.
Whoever lands the controversial Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract will provide cloud computing infrastructure and other services to the USA military for the next 10 years. The company responded by releasing principles for use of its artificial intelligence tools. 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. 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. The employees that chose to quit the company reportedly left memos to colleagues explaining their decisions, which ranged from ethical issues relating to Google helping the U.S. Military to issues with Google slowly losing public trust. The company's competitors are anxious that Amazon has an inside track to the JEDI award because of its earlier work with the Central Intelligence Agency, and because the request for proposals includes certain government IT certifications that only Amazon is likely to meet. Microsoft first announced Azure Government Secret back in October, and today Julia White, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Azure said that new Azure Regions dedicated to secret United States classified data will be available in Q1 2019.