While other contenders for the U.S. Department of Defense's cloud project are protesting the program after the Pentagon said it would award the contract only to a single vendor, Microsoft says it would pursue its own bid for it. The contract in question is the $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) intended to develop a massive cloud computing system for supporting the U.S. military as it builds new weapons and hosts classified information.
Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote in a blog post today that the software giant is "not going to withdraw from the future." The statement is likely an allusion to a recent plea from its employees calling on the company to step back from JEDI, citing their "expectation that the technologies we build will not cause harm or human suffering."
Smith noted that the Redmond giant has been supplying technology to the Pentagon for 40 years and acknowledged the potential ethical concerns over the use of artificial intelligence in warfare. But he added:
"At the same time, we appreciate that technology is creating new ethical and policy issues that the country needs to address in a thoughtful and wise manner. That’s why it’s important that we engage as a company in the public dialogue on these issues."
"But we can’t expect these new developments to be addressed wisely if the people in the tech sector who know the most about technology withdraw from the conversation."
Other vendors recently criticized the government's cloud initiative. These companies include Google, which dropped out of the bidding process because it believed the project was in conflict with its corporate values, as reported by Bloomberg. Oracle also protested the contract, according to Washington Technology, followed by IBM for reasons largely related to competition.
Microsoft and Amazon Web Services are the only remaining bidders for the project, though it remains to be seen which company will win the contract.