Google is going to vie with Microsoft and Amazon to work with the Pentagon on a cloud infrastructure project for the agency. Three years ago, the company declined a similar proposal of the U.S. Defense Department after protests by its employees, but now the IT giant intends to return to cooperation with the military, as reported by sources of The New York Times on November 3.
“The Pentagon’s relaunch of the cloud project has given Google a chance to get back into the contract fight, and the company has rushed to prepare an offer to the department. In September, Google’s cloud division made it a priority, declaring Code Yellow to be important. This allowed engineers to be pulled from other developments and brought in to work on the military project,” the newspaper wrote, citing four insiders.
Three years after employee protests forced Google to give up work on a Pentagon program that used artificial intelligence, the company is again seeking a major contract to provide its technology to the military.
Google’s plan to secure a lucrative contract for a project known as the Joint Warfare Cloud Capabilities could spark a wave of employee outrage and test management’s willingness to stand up to them.
In 2018, thousands of employees signed a letter opposing participation in Project Maven, a military program that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to interpret video images and could be used to refine the targets of drone strikes. At the time, Google executives relented.
CEO Sundar Pichai even had to make a secret visit to the U.S. Department of Defense after refusing to extend the contract for participation in the department’s program.
The U.S. military’s current request is aimed at modernizing the Pentagon’s cloud technology and the use of AI to gain advantages on the battlefield. The new project is an alternative to the contract with Microsoft, which was terminated this summer amid a lengthy legal battle with Amazon.
On Tuesday, Google cloud CEO Thomas Kurian met with Charles C. Brown Jr., chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force, and other top Pentagon officials to petition for his company, insiders familiar with the situation added.