Google seeks lucrative Pentagon contract three years after employee revolt

Google is reportedly ‘aggressively’ seeking a lucrative Pentagon contract, despite prior employee protests that have forced it to drop certain projects with the Department of Defense.

The Google cloud unit’s chief executive, Thomas Kurian, met with top Pentagon officials to make the case that the company is best suited for the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC) contract, according to the New York Times

JWCC is the successor program to the contentious $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure Cloud, or JEDI, contract, which the Pentagon canceled in July following a furious dispute between Amazon and Microsoft over how the contract was awarded.

Three years ago, employee protests forced Google to drop out of the running for the JEDI contract, as well as cancel its Project Maven program to use Artificial Intelligence to improve targeting in drone strikes.

In a statement to DailyMail.com on Wednesday, a Google spokesperson said that the company is ‘firmly committed to serving our public sector customers, including the DoD’ and added that ‘we will evaluate any future bid opportunities accordingly.’ 

Google cloud unit's chief executive, Thomas Kurian

Google cloud unit's chief executive, Thomas Kurian

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Q. Brown, Jr

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Q. Brown, Jr

The Google cloud unit’s chief executive, Thomas Kurian (left), reportedly met with top Pentagon officials including Air Force Chief of Staff Charles Q. Brown, Jr (right) on Tuesday to make the case in the company’s bid for the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC) contract

In pursuing the new JWCC deal, Google now risks infuriating the left-leaning activists among its employees, who successfully torpedoed the prior deals with DoD. 

In September 2017, Google won the Maven contract, but decided to keep the deal secret, even from its own employees. 

As word of Maven leaked internally, employees began voicing outrage, citing the company’s former slogan, ‘don’t be evil.’

The then-head of Google’s cloud division, Diane Greene, responded by locking down mailing lists, deleting documents, or asking employees to redact Google+ posts, according to Wired.

The internal fallout from the imbroglio forced Google to later drop its JEDI bid, for which Maven was viewed as a chance to get a foot in the door at the Pentagon.

However, Google’s cloud division has continued to pursue less controversial partnership opportunities with DoD.

Those projects include a virtual system for training Air Force pilots, a cloud management solution to combat cyber threats, and support for efforts to reduce maintenance costs for corrosion on Navy vessels.

Sources close to the company tell DailyMail.com that Google believes it has a strong bid to participate in JWCC, and plans to tout its data analytics capabilities that could help predict and monitor trends like global stability, the financial impact of pandemics, and climate change.

In pursuing the new JWCC deal, Google now risks infuriating the left-leaning activists among its employees, who successfully torpedoed the prior deals with DoD

In pursuing the new JWCC deal, Google now risks infuriating the left-leaning activists among its employees, who successfully torpedoed the prior deals with DoD

In pursuing the new JWCC deal, Google now risks infuriating the left-leaning activists among its employees, who successfully torpedoed the prior deals with DoD

JEDI eventually came down to two players, Amazon and Microsoft, before Microsoft’s award was canceled amid a furious row.

The contract was coveted not just for its dollar value but also its prestige: Both companies for years have sought to persuade businesses and governments that it was safe to shift computing work into their data centers. 

Meeting all the security requirements of the U.S. military would have been a visible stamp of approval likely to sway other corporate and government clients, analysts said. 

But the Trump-era award to Microsoft sparked accusations of political retaliation against Donald Trump’s nemesis, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Trump had publicly derided then-Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and repeatedly criticized the company. 

Amazon said in 2019 the Pentagon award to Microsoft was full of ‘egregious errors,’ which it suggested were a result of ‘improper pressure from Trump.’ 

The company cited a 2019 book that reported Trump had directed the Defense Department to ‘screw Amazon’. 

While the Trump administration wanted a single provider, the Biden administration has said it would likely parcel out the project to multiple companies, and canceled the JEDI deal in July.

Such a move would put the military more in line with private-sector companies, many of whom split up their cloud computing work among multiple vendors to avoid being locked in to any specific one. 

Google CEO Sundar Pichai is seen in a file photo. JEDI eventually came down to two players, Amazon and Microsoft, before Microsoft's award was canceled amid a furious row

Google CEO Sundar Pichai is seen in a file photo. JEDI eventually came down to two players, Amazon and Microsoft, before Microsoft's award was canceled amid a furious row

Google CEO Sundar Pichai is seen in a file photo. JEDI eventually came down to two players, Amazon and Microsoft, before Microsoft’s award was canceled amid a furious row

When the Pentagon announced the new JWCC deal in July, DoD Chief Information Officer John Sherman said the department would be reaching out not just to Microsoft and Amazon, but also IBM, Oracle and Google. 

The department hopes by April 2022 to have contracted for a multi-award, multi-vendor cloud solution with a performance period of no more than five years, consisting of a three-year performance base period and two one-year option periods, Sherman said. 

A Google spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday: ‘We strongly believe a multi-cloud strategy offers the department the best solution today and in the future.’

‘We are firmly committed to serving our public sector customers, including the DoD, Department of Energy, NIH, and many other government agencies, and we will evaluate any future bid opportunities accordingly,’ the statement added. 

Microsoft said in a statement the company was confident it will ‘continue to be successful as the DoD selects partners for new work’. Microsoft could submit a termination bid to recover costs of the scrapped project, Sherman said.

Amazon’s cloud unit Amazon Web Services (AWS) said it agreed with the Pentagon’s decision to cancel the contract. 

Amazon said the initial award was ‘not based on the merits of the proposals and instead was the result of outside influence that has no place in government procurement.’ 

AWS added it looks ‘forward to continuing to support the DoD´s modernization efforts and building solutions that help accomplish their critical missions.’ 

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