Google pursuing Pentagon cloud computing contract: report

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Google is reportedly pursuing a cloud computing contract with the Defense Department after the Pentagon and Microsoft severed ties over the summer.

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that the Pentagon is looking to resurrect its cloud computing project, which is posing an opportunity for Google to enter the bidding war to work with the military. Four people familiar with the matter told the newspaper that Google is now working to create a proposal to pitch to Defense officials.

Google’s cloud unit announced an emergency “Code Yellow” in September for the Pentagon proposal, two sources told the Times, which allows the company to transfer engineers from other assignments to the military endeavor.

Thomas Kurian, chief executive of Google’s cloud unit, reportedly met with Charles Q. Brown, the Air Force chief of staff, on Tuesday, where personnel from the tech giant made the argument for why its company is fit for the contract.

The new contract, dubbed the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability, will take the place of the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI), which the Pentagon canceled in July. The contract, which was with Microsoft, was axed amid an intense legal battle involving Microsoft and Amazon.

Amazon for more than a year had been contesting the $10 billion contract that Microsoft received in October 2019.

The new contract would upgrade the Pentagon’s cloud technology and bolster support for utilizing artificial intelligence as a strategic tool on the battlefield, according to the Times.

A Google spokesperson told The Hill in a statement that the tech giant believes a multi-cloud strategy would present the Pentagon “the best solution today and in the future,” adding that it will consider future chances for bids accordingly.

“We are firmly committed to serving our public sector customers, including the DoD, Department of Energy, NIH, and many other government agencies, and we will evaluate any future bid opportunities accordingly,” the spokesperson added.

Google’s jockeying for the contract may come as a surprise to some, after the tech giant pulled out of a project with the Pentagon, dubbed Project Maven, in 2018, after thousands of employees signed onto a letter that objected to the initiative. The company ultimately decided not to renew its contract with the Defense Department that year.

Project Maven focused on utilizing artificial intelligence as a tool to help examine videos, according to the Times. It could also reportedly be used to hone in on drone strike targets.

After Google declined to renew its contract with the Pentagon, the company wrote guidelines that addressed the ethical use of artificial intelligence, which said the technology should not be utilized for weapons or surveillance, according to the Times.

The newspaper noted that while it is unclear if Google’s involvement with the Pentagon through the contract would be a breach of the tech giant’s artificial intelligence principles, the Defense Department has said that the technology will likely be a helpful tool in the battlefield.

Russell Goemaere, a Pentagon spokesman, told The Hill that it will hear out proposals from a limited number of companies and research their capabilities. 

“As this is an active acquisition, we cannot provide any additional information related to this effort,” he added.


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