Main image of article Will Google Employees Protest a Military Contract Again?

In the past, Google employees have protested their company’s work with the military. But that hasn’t dissuaded Google from pursuing a new, major contract with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

That contract, known as the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC), would evolve the DoD’s existing cloud ecosystem. In a statement over the summer, the DoD stated that it would seek proposals for the JWCC from a limited number of potential vendors, “namely the Microsoft Corporation (Microsoft) and Amazon Web Services (AWS), as available market research indicates that these two vendors are the only Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) capable of meeting the Department’s requirements.” However, other tech companies can compete for the contract—and Google evidently thinks it can win.

In order to achieve such a victory, Google will need to demonstrate that its teams can fulfill a vast number of requirements, including “advanced data analytics,” “elastic computing, storage, and network infrastructure,” and “fortified security.”

According to The New York Times, Google is scrambling to assemble a proposal for the DoD. The news raises one big question: If Google’s proposal wins out, will it violate the company’s longtime pledge to not adapt A.I. to “harmful use”? The Pentagon is clearly interested in using A.I. to give it a battlefield advantage, and any next-generation cloud infrastructure would no doubt play a big part in that goal.     

Google originally made that A.I. pledge in 2018, after employees protested the company’s contract with the Pentagon to develop A.I. capable of interpreting objects in images and video feeds. Protesting employees argued the technology could be used to improve the “eyesight” of lethal military drones. (Employees at other companies, including Microsoft, have also protested A.I.-related contracts for the military.)

Will Google employees protest any future work with the Pentagon, especially if it involves A.I. and battlefield technology? That’s an excellent question. According to Blind, which launches anonymous surveys on a range of issues, some 57 percent of technologists said they wouldn’t work for a particular company because of moral reasons. But not everyone will necessarily view a military contract as immoral, particularly if they feel that national security is a just priority.