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

Getty Images

Getty Images

Securing the contract, which involves about a decade's worth of work, could have helped Google catch up with Amazon and Microsoft - the two market leaders in selling cloud computing services to governments and businesses.

Google won't bid to renew its Project Maven contract with the Pentagon after it expires in 2019.

The bid was for an initiative at the Pentagon known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure or JEDI, which is a plan to move the majority of the Defense Department's data to one cloud infrastructure that is centralized.

The company then released a set of principles which would asses its AI applications against a host of objectives, saying it believes any use of its technology should be socially beneficial, accountable, and incorporate privacy-by-design, and adhere to ethical standards.

The tech firm revealed the latest decision hours after confirming it had exposed Google+ users' personal data. But more than 3,000 Google employees had signed a petition against the company's involvement in the project because they thought that the study and the imagery could eventually be used to improve drone strikes in the battlefield. Some Google employees reportedly quit over the company's work on Project Maven, which is a drone initiative from the U.S. government and Google employees believed that the project end up weaponizing the AI research. While it will still work with the military, the guidelines would prohibit the use of AI in weaponry. The final requirements for the project were released in July after a lobbying campaign by tech companies, including Microsoft, IBM and Oracle, that opposed the Pentagon's plans to choose just one victor for the project instead of splitting the contract among a number of providers.

A Google spokesman added that there were also portions of the contract that were out of scope with the company's current government certifications. In addition to its concerns that some of the contract's terms might not align with its principles, Google also lacks some military clearances that would allow it to take up the assignment on its own.

The JEDI contract is single-source, making it probable that only some of the nation's largest cloud providers - such as Microsoft - will be capable of delivering the entirety of the contract. But IBM took that criticism a step further in arguing that the single-award approach would conflict with the White House's "Cloud Smart" strategy, which emphasizes leveraging the best approaches from government and commercial industry.

Amazon Web Services is largely considered a front-runner for the contract, which is expected to draw bids from Microsoft, IBM and Oracle.

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