Google pulls out of race for billion dollar Pentagon defense contract

Tech giant Google will not bid for a lucrative cloud contract with the Pentagon over concerns the job does not align with the company’s artificial intelligence principles.

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“While we are working to support the U.S. 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 spokesperson for the company said in a statement.

The Defense Department’s pending cloud storage contract, known as Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI), could span a decade and will likely be its largest yet – valued in the billions of dollars. The department issued draft requests for proposals to host sensitive and classified information and will likely announce a singular winner later this year.

Google said it believed a multi-cloud approach would be in the government’s best interest, “because it allows them to choose the right cloud for the right workload.”

While Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Oracle were viewed as the major contenders for the job, Google’s employees voiced concern about creating products for the U.S. government. More than 3,000 of the tech giant’s employees signed a letter earlier this year addressed to company CEO Sundar Pichai, protesting involvement in a Pentagon pilot program called Project Maven.

“We believe that Google should not be in the business of war. Therefore we ask that Project Maven be cancelled, and that Google draft, publicize and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology,” the letter, obtained by The New York Times, read.

Project Maven is an artificial intelligence program designed to use data captured by government drones to identify and track objects viewed on surveillance footage. Google workers were concerned about how the application could be weaponized once under ownership of the U.S. military.

In response to the outcry, the head of the Google’s cloud division said the company would establish a code of ethics to “guide the company’s use of its technology and products,” according to a report from Defense One.

The executive said Google wouldn’t sign on to any other similar projects without having such a code in place.

The JEDI cloud contract aims to fully integrate all military services, but Google employees could have similar concerns about what the technology ultimately helps the military accomplish.

A Google spokesperson said the company will continue to pursue “strategic work to help state, local and federal customers modernize their infrastructure and meet their mission critical requirements.”

Pichai came under fire last month for declining to appear before a Senate Committee to address questions on social media privacy issues. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg did attend. Late last month he met with members of the House Judiciary Committee and is expected back on Capitol Hill in November.

The Google exec also met with Trump’s top economic advisor Larry Kudlow, who called Pichai "extremely cooperative."

The JEDI decision was announced on the same day Google disclosed  plans to scrap its Google + product after the company discovered a software glitch that gave outsiders potential access to private profile data.