Google executives told employees it could compete for Pentagon contracts without violating its principles.
Google executives told employees in a companywide meeting last week that it was interested in a Pentagon contract for cloud computing and that working for the military would not conflict with the company’s laid-back principles on how to use its artificial intelligence technology. Will go
Google is following a contract three years after an employee rebellion forced the company to quit work on a Pentagon program that uses artificial intelligence and new guidelines against using weapons or AI for surveillance installs.
Pursuit potentially sets up another conflict between company leaders and employees. Google’s cloud unit prioritized preparing to bid on a Pentagon contract, The New York Times revealed this month, shunting engineers from other projects to focus on creating a winning proposal.
The rush to pursue the contract is a dramatic change for Google, which said in 2018 that it would not bid on a major cloud computing contract with the Defense Department, known as the Joint Venture Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, Because the work will conflict with its AI principles.
The JEDI cloud computing contract was estimated to be worth $10 billion over 10 years, and was awarded to Microsoft in 2019. But facing legal challenges from Amazon, the Pentagon terminated the contract in July and announced a new plan to buy cloud computing technology. The new version of the contract, known as Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability, will split the work between several companies.
The fractious nature of the contract allows Google to work on parts of the Pentagon cloud without violating the arms embargo, Google executives told employees in a videoconference meeting on Thursday, a recording of which was obtained by The Times.
The exact scope of the work is still unclear as the government has not submitted a formal request for proposal. While it hasn’t been invited to bid, Google has said it’s interested.
In a blog post published on the same day of the meeting, Thomas Kurian, who oversees the company’s cloud unit, wrote: “If we are invited to be part of the JWCC contract, we will bid in full.”
At the meeting, Mr Kurian said there are many areas where Google’s capabilities and expertise can be applied “without conflicting with Google’s AI principles”.
“We have governance processes in place that provide guidance and oversight about what AI products we will offer and what custom AI projects we will and will not move forward, and we will follow those governance processes,” he said.
Mr Kurian’s remarks, previously reported by CNBC, were made in response to a question from an employee about Google’s interest in the Pentagon contract and The Times’ reporting on it.
“We understand that not every Googler will agree with this decision, but we believe that Google Cloud should serve the government where it is able to do so and where it works in line with Google’s AI principles and our company’s values. fulfills it,” said Mr. Kurien.
Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai echoed his remarks. “I think we are strongly committed to working with the government in a way that is consistent with our AI principles,” said Mr. Pichai.
A Google spokesperson declined to comment.
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