Yesterday, Google announced that they will be not be competing for the Pentagon’s cloud-computing contract which is supposedly worth $10 billion. They opted out of bidding for the project named, Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) saying the project may conflict with its principles for the ethical use of AI.
The JEDI project involves moving massive amounts of Pentagon internal data to a commercially operated secure cloud system. The bidding for this contract began two months ago and closes this week (12th October).
CNBC reported in July that Amazon is considered as the number one choice for the contract because it is already providing services for the cloud system used by U.S intelligence agencies. Cloud providers such as IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle are also top-contenders as they have worked with government agencies for many decades. This move could help their chances of winning the decade-long JEDI contract.
Why Google has dropped out of this bidding?
One of Google’s spokespersons told TechCrunch that the main reason for opting out of this bidding is because it doesn’t align with their AI principles:
“While we are working to support the US government with our cloud in many areas, 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.”
He further added that:
“Had the JEDI contract been open to multiple vendors, we would have submitted a compelling solution for portions of it. Google Cloud believes that a multi-cloud approach is in the best interest of government agencies, because it allows them to choose the right cloud for the right workload. At a time when new technology is constantly becoming available, customers should have the ability to take advantage of that innovation. We will continue to pursue strategic work to help state, local and federal customers modernize their infrastructure and meet their mission critical requirements.”
Also, this decision is a result of thousands of Google employees protesting against the company’s involvement in another US government project named Project Maven. Earlier this year, some of the Google employees reportedly quit over the company’s work on this project. Its employees believed that the U.S. military could weaponize AI and apply the technology towards refining drone strikes and other kinds of lethal attacks.
An internal petition was also drafted for Google CEO Sundar Pichai to cancel Project Maven and was signed by over 3,000 employees. After this protest, Google said it would not renew the contract or pursue similar military contracts. Further, Google also formulated its principles for the ethical use of AI.
You can read the full story on Bloomberg.