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Google drops out of Pentagon’s US$10 billion cloud competition

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2018, 12:40pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2018, 12:40pm

Alphabet’s Google has decided not to compete for the Pentagon’s cloud-computing contract valued at as much as US$10 billion, saying the project may conflict with its corporate values.

The project, known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud, or JEDI, involves transitioning massive amounts of Department of Defence (DOD) data to a commercially operated cloud system. Companies are expected to submit bids for the contract, which could last as long as 10 years, on October 12.

Google’s announcement on Monday came just months after the company decided not to renew its contract with a Pentagon artificial intelligence (AI) programme, after extensive protests from employees of the internet giant about working with the military. The company then released a set of principles designed to evaluate what kind of AI projects it would pursue.

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“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. “And second, we determined that there were portions of the contract that were out of scope with our current government certifications.”

The spokesman said Google is “working to support the US government with our cloud in many ways”.

The Tech Workers Coalition, which advocates for giving employees a say in technology company decisions, said in a statement that Google’s decision to withdraw from the cloud competition stemmed from “sustained” pressure from tech workers who “have significant power, and are increasingly willing to use it”.

Google is behind other technology companies, such as Amazon.com and Microsoft Corp, in obtaining government cloud-security authorisations that depend on the sensitivity of data a service is hosting.

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The JEDI contract attracted widespread interest from technology companies struggling to catch up with Amazon Web Services, a subsidiary of Amazon, in the burgeoning federal government market for cloud services.

Final requirements for the defence department project were released in July after a months-long lobbying campaign in Washington by technology companies, including Microsoft, International Business Machines Corp and Oracle Corp, that opposed the Pentagon’s plans to choose just one winner for the project instead of splitting the contract among a number of providers.

“Had the JEDI contract been open to multiple vendors, we would have submitted a compelling solution for portions of it,” the Google spokesman said. “Google Cloud believes that a multi-cloud approach is in the best interest of government agencies, because it allows them to choose the right cloud for the right workload.”

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In a report to the US Congress, the defence department said making multiple awards under current acquisition law would be a slow process that “could prevent DOD from rapidly delivering new capabilities and improved effectiveness to the war fighter that enterprise-level cloud computing can enable”.

The department also said it expects “to maintain contracts with numerous cloud providers to access specialised capabilities not available under the JEDI Cloud contract”.