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Monday, December 5, 2022

Google leaders have told its staff that the company can compete for Pentagon contracts without sacrificing its core ideals of transparency and accountability

A companywide meeting of Google executives was held last week, during which executives stated that the company is interested in a Pentagon contract for cloud computing and that working for the military would not necessarily conflict with the principles that the company has established for how its artificial intelligence technology will be used.

Google is chasing the contract three years after an employee rebellion prompted the firm to halt work on a Pentagon programme that relied on artificial intelligence and to set new standards prohibiting the use of artificial intelligence for weapons or spying purposes.

It is possible that the quest may result in yet another conflict between corporate management and workers. According to a report published this month by The New York Times, Google’s cloud business prioritised preparations for a bid on a Pentagon contract, drawing engineers away from other projects to concentrate on developing a winning proposal.

The company’s haste to pursue the contract represents a significant shift from its previous position, in which it stated that it would not bid on a major cloud computing contract with the Defense Department, known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, because the work would conflict with its artificial intelligence principles, which was announced in 2018.

Approximately $10 billion in value over a ten-year period, the JEDI cloud computing contract given to Microsoft in 2019 was valued at $10 billion. As a result of legal objections from Amazon, the Pentagon cancelled the deal in July and announced a new strategy to acquire cloud computing technologies. With the revised version of the contract, which is referred to as the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability, the work will be divided among many organisations.

Using segmented contracts, Google executives told employees in a videoconference meeting on Thursday that the company could work on parts of the Pentagon cloud without violating the Pentagon’s ban on weapons. A recording of the videoconference meeting, which was obtained by The New York Times, was made available to The Times.

It is still unclear what the actual scope of the work will be since the government has not yet issued an official call for proposals. Google has shown interest in the project, despite the fact that it has not been asked to compete.

According to CNBC, Mr. Kurian’s comments were in response to an inquiry from an employee concerning Google’s interest in the Pentagon contract and The New York Times’ coverage of the matter, both of which were previously published.

Sundar Pichai, Google’s top executive, mirrored the sentiments expressed by the founder. As Mr. Pichai said, “I believe we are deeply committed to cooperating with the government in a manner that is consistent with our artificial intelligence values.”

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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