Google has withdrawn its bid for a lucrative $10bn Pentagon cloud computing contract amid concern that the defence contract would contravene its own principles limiting military applications of artificial intelligence. As the Defense Department outlined in March, the agency lacks "a coordinated enterprise-level approach to cloud infrastructure, [which] makes it virtually impossible for our warfighters and leaders to make critical data-driven decisions at 'mission-speed, ' negatively affecting outcomes". According to the Tech Workers Coalition, Google withdrew from the JEDI competition due to "sustained pressure" from tech workers, possibly also from employees.
In its statement, Google said it would have been able to support "portions" of the JEDI deal had joint bids been allowed. It also comes just months after Google employees protested en masse over the company's work with the United States military.
Earlier this year, controversy emerged within Google over the company's participation in Project Maven, an effort to build artificial intelligence for the Department of Defense to analyze drone video footage, which could be used to target drone strikes.
The contract could last up to ten years and the victor of the bid is expected to be announced at the end of the year.
The bidding process for the JEDI contract has come under scrutiny because of its large size and the fact that the Pentagon wants to award it to a single bidder rather than share it among several providers.
The two companies are left in the fray for the lucrative contract after Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google dropped out on Monday, saying the company's new ethical guidelines do not align with the project.
Google is behind other technology companies such as Amazon and Microsoft in obtaining government cloud-security authorizations that depend on the sensitivity of data a service is hosting. Amazon has said it favors the single-cloud approach for the JEDI contract. Competitors are anxious that Amazon has an inside track to the JEDI award because it has been the CIA's primary cloud provider for years and because the Pentagon's request for proposals includes highly specific requirements that only Amazon is likely to meet.
"And second, we determined that there were portions of the contract that were out of scope with our current government certifications", the spokesman added. "At a time when new technology is constantly becoming available, customers should have the ability to take advantage of that innovation".