Google again says no thanks to working with the Pentagon

Google again says no thanks to working with the Pentagon

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Chanda Brooks, contracting officer for the Defense Department, speaks during the JEDI Cloud Industry Day in Arlington, Va. March 7, 2018. The unclassified event outlined the Defense Dept.’s acquisition plans for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) Cloud (DoD photo by EJ Hersom)

WASHINGTON — For the second time in four months, Google is saying no to a chance to work with the Pentagon to avoid what it calls is a conflict with its corporate principles.

This time, Google will not enter a bid to win a lucrative contract to transfer Defense Department data to a commercially operated cloud system. Bids are due to the Pentagon tomorrow, Friday, October 12.

The project is known as JEDI, which stands for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure initiative. The contract, which could eventually be worth $10 billion, will be awarded to a single company despite efforts from a variety of firms urging the Pentagon to share the project by carving it into sections.

“We are not bidding on the JEDI contract because first, we couldn’t be assured that it would align with our AI (artificial intelligence) Principles,” Google said in a statement this week. “And second, we determined that there were portions of the contract that were out of scope with our current government certifications.”

In June, Google announced it would not renew its contract with a Pentagon artificial intelligence program involving drones, called Project Maven, after protests from employees. That program is designed to use artificial intelligence to comb surveillance video footage and make it more useful more quickly.

That contract ends spring, 2019.

Google then established a checklist of principles to guide decisions on what artificial intelligence programs it would seek to participate and which ones would cause “overall harm” and not be considered.

The Pentagon downplayed Google’s decision in June as well as its decision this week on JEDI as not having an impact on efforts to harness the private sector to move military technology forward.

However, private sector buy-in and cooperation is critical for the Army’s newly-launched Futures Command. That newly created entity was located in Austin, Texas, in a step aimed at working with high-tech and university innovators.

“We are confident we will be able to work with the (private sector) in moving forward” in Futures Command, Undersecretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy told TMN when asked about Google’s decisions not to participate.

In its statement, Google said had the JEDI project been split into different sections, it most likely would have bid on areas that aligned with it is principles.

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