Microsoft is offering alternative employment options for workers opposed to its recent bid on the Pentagon’s $10 billion cloud computing contract, dubbed JEDI.
In a blog post released last Friday, Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer at Microsoft, explained that he and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella touched on the topic during a monthly question and answer session with Microsoft employees. He noted that they touted three aspects behind Microsoft’s bid on the contract.
They included a view that the U.S. needed a strong defense, and that Microsoft could help by providing the best technology. The second was that the company wanted to use its voice in helping to construct the ongoing ethical conversation around the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in creating weapons. They also acknowledged that some of the company’s employees had different views, and that the company would allow those employees to work on other areas should they choose.
“Given our size and product diversity, we often have open jobs across the company, and we want people to look for the work they want to do, including with help from Microsoft’s HR team,” Smith wrote.
The blog post came on the heels of an open letter posted by some Microsoft employees protesting the company’s plans. The letter accuses Microsoft of betraying its AI principles for short-term profits.
Microsoft went forward and submitted a bid for the contract. A spokesperson for the company told The Telegraph that it submitted its proposal by the deadline. “While we don’t have a way to verify the authenticity of this letter, we always encourage employees to share their views with us,” the spokesperson said of the blog post.
Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM, and Oracle also submitted bids, although IBM and Oracle have expressed doubts over the validity of the bidding process. AWS and Microsoft are seen as the two most likely candidates to capture the all-or-nothing deal.
JEDI, which stands for Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, is a 10-year deal with the Department of Defense (DoD) to provide cloud services for all branches of the military.
Google did not bid on the contract, stating that it couldn’t be sure that JEDI would align with its AI principles. It also conceded that certain aspects of the contract were not within the scope of Google’s government certifications.