Google drops out of bidding for massive Pentagon cloud contract

Laverne Mann
October 12, 2018

Top Pentagon officials have said the JEDI contract would account for about 16 percent of the department's overall cloud-computing work, subsuming numerous department's own cloud efforts.

The JEDI contract attracted widespread interest from technology companies struggling to catch up with Amazon in the burgeoning federal government market for cloud services.

The trouble started in May, when Google was poised to renew a Pentagon project called Maven that used the company's artificial intelligence technology to enhance drone strikes.

This is partly because the company's new ethical guidelines do not align with the project, Google said on Monday, without elaborating. It also pledged not to work on AI projects contravening "widely accepted principles of worldwide law and human rights".

The contract, known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI for short, calls for a massive cloud-computing system that can handle classified US military data and enable new defense capabilities.

Google has abandoned the race to win the Pentagon's United States dollars 10 Billion Cloud Competition.

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That the company wasn't satisfied that the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud project fell within these areas implies that the contract may see the victor carry out work that could be directly weaponised or "cause or directly facilitate injury to people". She also emphasised that the company is prepared to meet the highest classification requirements for handling "top secret USA classified data". Whichever company wins could ultimately have little control over how the military uses its technology.

The JEDI contract seeks to move massive amounts of DOD data to the cloud.

"We are looking for an industry partner who will learn with us and help us find the best ways to bring foundational commercial capabilities to our war-fighters", Dana Deasy, the Pentagon's chief information officer, said when the contract was announced in July.

Following details of the involvement of Google in Project Maven became known, thousands of employees at Google signed petitions asking for the company to leave the project and dozens resigned as a show of protest. Other firms bidding for the contact include Amazon Web Services, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle. Some employees even resigned during the protest.

Bids for the 10-year contract were due this Friday (12 October).

Those companies, along with Microsoft, have been jockeying hard to land the contract, which the DoD plans to award to a single bidder. The final requirements for the project were released in July after a lobbying campaign by tech companies, including Microsoft, IBM and Oracle, that opposed the Pentagon's plans to choose just one victor for the project instead of splitting the contract among a number of providers.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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