Google wants in on the Pentagon’s new cloud contract, receives criticism from the Alphabet Workers Union

The JWCC program is the Pentagon’s replacement for its $10 billion JEDI project, which had to be canceled earlier this year following a lengthy legal row between Amazon and Microsoft. Google was notably missing from the action, as the company had previously been criticized by employees for providing AI tech to the military’s controversial Project Maven program. With the DoD’s JWCC contract now seeking proposals from multiple vendors, Google is said to be “aggressively pursuing” the lucrative project, a move that’s raised concern among the Alphabet Workers Union.

Google’s “alarming” exit from Project Maven in 2018 came in the face of increasing internal pressure that saw thousands of signed employee petitions and a dozen resignations. The company even came up with a set of guidelines for future military AI partnerships that would forbid the tech’s use for weaponry and surveillance.

A New York Times report has now revealed that the company is seeking to win a contract with the Pentagon for the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability project, the replacement for JEDI. While JEDI’s $10 billion were to be spent over a 10-year period with a single vendor, JWCC is a multivendor 5-year project with an undisclosed worth.

Microsoft and Amazon remain the current two best picks for the program, however, the Pentagon has previously said that it will also consider other players like Google, Oracle and IBM. Things shifted into high gear at Google’s cloud division in September, when engineers were pulled off from other assignments to prioritize JWCC. The company now looks to submit a bid in the coming weeks, once the DoD deems it can qualify.

Expectedly, Google’s interest in the project has also sparked concerns among the 800+ strong Alphabet Workers Union, a trade union of Google employees and contractors who’ve previously voiced and campaigned against Project Maven, labor rights as well as other workplace issues at Google.

Although 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. For now, the company has said that it is “firmly committed to serving our public sector customers, including the DoD.” The latter expects to award a contract by April 2022.