Google’s decision to articulate a set of principles around its use of artificial intelligence has officially cost it business.
The company announced Monday that it will not submit a bid for the U.S. Department of Defense’s JEDI cloud computing project, a massive undertaking to transform the military’s information technology infrastructure that is expected to be worth at least $10 billion over the next ten years. A Google representative confirmed a Bloomberg report that it will not bid on the contract, months after employee unrest over its involvement with Project Maven — an attempt to use artificial intelligence to better identify the targets of drone strikes — led to its decision to let the contract covering that work expire.
Google’s statement follows in its entirety:
While we are working to support the US government with our cloud in many areas, we are not bidding on the JEDI contract because first, we couldn’t be assured that it would align with our AI Principles and second, we determined that there were portions of the contract that were out of scope with our current government certifications. Had the JEDI contract been open to multiple vendors, we would have submitted a compelling solution for portions of it. Google Cloud believes that a multi-cloud approach is in the best interest of government agencies, because it allows them to choose the right cloud for the right workload. At a time when new technology is constantly becoming available, customers should have the ability to take advantage of that innovation. We will continue to pursue strategic work to help state, local and federal customers modernize their infrastructure and meet their mission critical requirements.
Google’s AI principles were laid out in a blog post by CEO Sundar Pichai in June, and they said the company would not apply its arguably market-leading artificial intelligence products to military uses that involve “weapons or other technologies whose principal purpose or implementation is to cause or directly facilitate injury to people.” That would appear to be directly at odds with the plans for JEDI, which the Pentagon has been quite clear will be designed around the needs of “the warfighter.”
But Google was unlikely to win the contract anyway, given its acknowledged lack of proper certifications across all aspects of its cloud business and the Pentagon’s insistence that it plans to award the contract to a single bidder. Amazon Web Services is believed to be the most likely candidate given its history of government work and the scope of its market-leading cloud services, but Microsoft Azure also has the necessary certifications to compete.
Final bids are due next week, according to the Bloomberg report, although that deadline has been a moving target all year.