Tech

Google pulls out of $10 billion Pentagon cloud contract over AI concerns

Google pulls out of $10 billion Pentagon cloud contract over AI concerns

In a statement to The Washington Post, Google said it is dropping its bid for ethical reasons and because it lacked certain government certifications.

Earlier this year, Google faced employee pressure to drop out of Project Maven, which was set to build AI systems that can process and analyze drone footage for the Pentagon.

For its part, Google told Bloomberg that it also supports the idea of splitting the JEDI contract between multiple providers, and that it would have submitted a bid on those terms.

The expanded Azure Government Secret cloud service will make Microsoft "a strong option for the JEDI contract", said Julia White, corporate vice president of Microsoft Azure, adding that the company is capable of meeting the highest classification requirement for handling "top secret USA classified data". Some Google employees reportedly quit over the company's work on Project Maven, a drone initiative for the U.S. government that could weaponize their AI research.

"We will continue to pursue strategic work to help state, local and federal customers modernize their infrastructure and meet their mission critical requirements", a Google spokesperson said in a statement. The company later said it would entirely ban the development of AI software that can be used in weapons systems. Last week Google chief executive Sundar Pichai met with top defense officials to try to ease tensions.

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

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Google says it chose not to compete for the contract because it believes this work would conflict with its corporate principles, and because it believes it may not hold all of the necessary certifications.

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. IBM, Microsoft and Oracle have sharply criticized that approach and even mounted lawsuits seeking to overturn it, arguing that the project is unfairly tilted in Amazon's favor.

Amazon and Microsoft are the industry's cloud market leaders.

That work will not include JEDI, which seeks to improve the Pentagon's cloud capabilities.

Several big tech companies are currently in a race to win the Pentagon's $10 billion JEDI cloud contract, and after Google pulled out from the fight yesterday, Microsoft is now touting an upcoming expansion of its Azure Government Secret cloud service (via Reuters).


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