Amazon’s Jeff Bezos says tech companies should work with US military, even as Google backs out of defence contracts

“This is a great country and it does need to be defended,” CEO Jeff Bezos said at an event in San Francisco

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2018, 1:56pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2018, 3:58pm chief executive Jeff Bezos has defended his company’s effort to aid the US military with its advanced technology, after the bidding for government contracts by the tech industry triggered a recent wave of employee protests at some companies.

“If big tech companies are going to turn their back on US Department of Defence, this country is going to be in trouble,” Bezos said Monday at an event for Wired magazine’s 25th anniversary in San Francisco. “We are going to continue to support the DOD and I think we should.”

“This is a great country and it does need to be defended,” he said.

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While Silicon Valley has long been building hardware and software for the US military and law enforcement, employees at technology giants like Google and Microsoft have in recent months protested at such defence contracts due to increasing ethical concerns.

Last week, Google said it will no longer bid for the Pentagon’s US$10 billion cloud computing contract, known as the Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure, or JEDI, saying the project may be in conflict with its corporate values. In June, Google dropped a defence contract to analyse drone video amid employee protests.

Amazon, for its part, is still bidding for the JEDI deal, of which the sole winner is expected to be announced next April. Other competitors include Microsoft, IBM and Oracle.

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“It does not make any sense to me,” Bezos said of tech companies bailing on government contracts. “One of the jobs of the senior leadership team is to make the right decision, even when it's unpopular.”

Last week, Bezos’s space company Blue Origin won a US$500 million contract to develop a reusable rocket to launch military and spy satellites for the US government.

“Technologies always are two-sided. You know there are ways they can be misused as well as used, and this isn’t new,” Bezos said.