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

10 October 2018

Google's decision to drop out of Project Maven sparked a backlash in Washington at an inopportune time for the company as it tries to expand its business with the federal government. Microsoft may not be able to win this multi-billion-dollar contract over Amazon, but Microsoft's Julia White emphasized today that the company's expanded Azure Government Secret Cloud service would make it "a strong option for the JEDI contract".

The Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure (JEDI) project, which involves the mass transfer of data previously handled by defence contractors to a commercial competitor, offers a big enough potential payout that it had attracted the attention of giants like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft.

The move follows a broader reckoning at Google over how the company's artificial intelligence algorithms, which are some of the most advanced in the world, should be applied to the work of national defense. The company then released a set of principles created to evaluate what kind of artificial intelligence projects it would pursue.

"While we are working to support the United States 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", a Google spokesperson said. In fact, Microsoft is stepping up its government-cloud campaigning just ahead of the October 12 deadline for request-for-proposal (RFP) submissions for the so-called JEDI contract.

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Google cited its AI principles, which were published back in June, as the reason for dropping out of the bidding process. He told SiliconANGLE that Google's decision was interesting in light of other companies' threats to sue the government over a lack of inclusion. 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.

Earlier this year, Google decided not to renew another defense contract called Project Maven, which provided artificial intelligence for the assesement of drone imagery.

"So they were wise to walk away from this", he said, "There is lots of internal drama and they out of compliance anyway, making the odds bad on all fronts". Several companies, including Oracle, IBM and Microsoft, were working together to oppose the winner-take-all approach rather than splitting the contract among multiple vendors. Unlike many online publications, we don't have a paywall or run banner advertising, because we want to keep our journalism open, without influence or the need to chase traffic.

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