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

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Bidding on the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) began approximately two months ago, currently, the lead contender to receive the contract is Amazon who previously worked for the Central Intelligence Agency setting up their cloud but a number of other companies are involved in the bidding including Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM.

With JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure), the Pentagon is planning a major revamp of its IT infrastructure.

Google's decision not to make a bid comes months after it faced severe backlash from its employees thanks to its participation in another military program called Project Maven, which involved using AI to identify targets for drone strikes.

"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", a Google representative said in the statement, adding that the company works with the USA government in many areas.

In June, Sundar Pichai wrote a blog describing Google's AI principles and specified that "we are not developing AI for use in weapons". According to the Tech Workers Coalition, Google withdrew from the JEDI competition due to "sustained pressure" from tech workers, possibly also from employees.

Amazon Web Services is now the only company to have achieved an IL-6 security authorization, besting other competitors including Microsoft, Oracle and International Business Machines.

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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. Final bids are due October 12.

The contract has a massive ceiling value of $10 billion over a period of 10 years, one of the largest of its kind in history. The company says that this particular project is not in line with its AI policies, but it will continue to work with the United States government in other ways.

The long and costly process to gain authorization to sell cloud services to federal agencies can give technology companies a boost when they compete for government contracts. "And second, we determined that there were portions of the contract that were out of scope with our current government certifications".

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

Google has dropped out of the race for the Department of Defense's $10 billion, 10-year cloud contract, but Microsoft is still all-in.

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