Google Wants to Participate in Pentagon’s New Cloud Contract, Receives Criticism from Alphabet Workers Union

In the context: The JWCC program is the Pentagon’s replacement for its $ 10 billion JEDI project, which had to be canceled earlier this year after a lengthy legal battle between Amazon and Microsoft. It is noteworthy that Google did not participate in the action, as the company was previously criticized by employees for providing artificial intelligence technologies for the controversial military program Project Maven. With the DoD JWCC contract now seeking bids from multiple suppliers, Google is said to be “aggressively pursuing” the lucrative project, which has raised concerns among the Alphabet Workers Union.

Google’s “alarming” exit from Project Maven in 2018 came amid growing internal pressure, which resulted in thousands of employee petitions and dozens of layoffs. The company even developed a set of guidelines for future partnerships with military artificial intelligence that would prohibit the use of this technology for weapons and surveillance.

The New York Times report now disclosed that the company is seeking to win a contract with the Pentagon for the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability project replacing JEDI. While the $ 10 billion JEDI was to be spent on a single supplier over 10 years, the JWCC is a five-year, multi-supplier project with an undisclosed cost.

Microsoft and Amazon remain the two top candidates for the program, however the Pentagon has previously said it will also consider other players such as Google, Oracle and IBM. In September, Google’s cloud division was in full swing when engineers were removed from other tasks to make JWCC a priority. The company is now set to apply in the coming weeks as soon as the Department of Defense deems it can apply.

Google’s interest in the project is also expected to spark concerns among more than 800 strong Alphabet Workers Union, a union of Google employees and contractors who have previously spoken out and opposed Project Maven, labor rights, and other workplace concerns at Google.

While the union has announced it will “fight” this lucrative contract and “win again”, it remains to be seen how (and if) Google will address their concerns this time around. The company has so far stated that it is “firmly committed to serving our public sector clients, including the Department of Defense.” The latter expects to conclude a contract by April 2022.

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