Google executives tell employees they can compete for contracts with the Pentagon without breaking its principles.

Google executives told employees at a company-wide meeting last week that they were interested in a Pentagon contract for cloud computing and that working for the military wouldn’t necessarily come in. in conflict with the principles created by the company on how its artificial intelligence technology would be used.

Google is suing the contract three years after an employee revolt forced the company to abandon work on a Pentagon program that used artificial intelligence and establish new guidelines against the use of AI at weapons or surveillance purposes.

The lawsuit potentially creates another clash between company executives and employees. Google’s cloud unit has prioritized preparing a bid for a contract with the Pentagon, the New York Times revealed this month, pulling engineers from other projects to focus on creating a winning proposition.

The rush to pursue the contract is a sea change for Google, which said in 2018 it would not bid on a major cloud computing contract with the Department of Defense, known as Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, because the work would conflict with its AI principles.

The JEDI cloud computing contract was valued at $ 10 billion over 10 years and was awarded to Microsoft in 2019. But faced with legal challenges from Amazon, the Pentagon canceled the contract in July and announced a new plan to purchase of cloud computing technology. The new version of the contract, known as Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability, will split the work between multiple companies.

The segmented nature of the contract allows Google to work on portions of the Pentagon cloud without violating its arms ban, Google executives told employees on Thursday at the video conference meeting, a recording of which was obtained by The Times.

The exact scope of the work is still unclear as the government has not submitted a formal request for proposal. Although it was not invited to bid, Google has expressed interest.

In a blog post Posted on the same day as the meeting, Thomas Kurian, who oversees the company’s cloud unit, wrote, “If we are invited to be part of the JWCC contract, we will absolutely bid.

At the meeting, Kurian said there are many areas where Google’s capabilities and expertise can be applied “without conflicting with Google’s AI principles.”

“We have governance processes that provide guidance and oversight of the AI ​​products that we will offer and the personalized AI projects that we will and will not pursue, and we will follow these governance processes,” he said. he declares.

Mr. Kurian’s remarks, which were reported earlier by CNBC, were made in response to a question from an employee about Google’s interest in the Pentagon contract and the Times reports on it.

“We understand that not all Googlers will agree with this decision, but we believe that Google Cloud should seek to serve government where it is able to do so and where the work follows Google’s AI principles and the values ​​of our company, ”said Mr. Kurian.

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai echoed his words. “I think we are firmly committed to working with government in a manner consistent with our AI principles,” Pichai said.

A Google spokesperson declined to comment.

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