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Google drops out of bidding for $10 billion Pentagon data deal

11 October 2018
Google drops out of bidding for $10 billion Pentagon data deal

The project, known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud, or JEDI, involves transitioning massive amounts of Defense Department data to a commercially operated cloud system.

The company wrote those ethical principles after employees strongly opposed its contract renewal for a separate Pentagon program called Project Maven, which aims to develop algorithms that can flag drone images for human review.

"We are not bidding on the JEDI contract because first, we couldn't be assured that it would align with our AI Principles", a Google spokesman said in a statement. "We will continue to pursue strategic work to help state, local and federal customers modernize their infrastructure and meet their mission critical requirements".

The principles bar use of Google's artificial intelligence (AI) software in weapons as well as services that violate worldwide norms for surveillance and human rights.

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.

Bloomberg added that a Google spokesperson said, had an effort by a number of companies including Microsoft, International Business Machines Corp., and Oracle Corp.to split the contract into pieces succeeded, the company could have "submitted a compelling solution for portions of it".

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 US classified data". As only one company will be awarded the contract, Amazon is seen as the frontrunner.

That program, known as Project Maven, is created to automate the analysis of surveillance footage collected by USA military drones, a task that for years has been handled directly by the Air Force. Bids are due October 12.

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