US “in trouble” if big tech doesn’t work with DoD: Bezos

Harry Lye 9 December 2019 (Last Updated December 9th, 2019 11:53)

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos at the weekend warned that the US would face a challenge maintaining technological supremacy if large technology companies choose not to work with the Department of Defence (DoD).

US “in trouble” if big tech doesn’t work with DoD:  Bezos
Amazon chief executive officer and founder Jeff Bezos at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference last year. Credits: US Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Anthony Nelson Jr.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos at the weekend warned that the US would face a challenge maintaining technological supremacy if large technology companies choose not to work with the Department of Defence (DoD).

Speaking at the annual Reagan National Defence Forum, Bezos said: “If big tech is going to turn their backs on the Department of Defense, this country’s in trouble. That just can’t happen.”

He went on to describe the US as the “the good guys.” Bezos’ various companies are currently vying for several DoD contracts, and recently Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced it was taking legal action against the Department over the handling of the $10bn Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract.

Bezos said: “Look, I understand these are emotional issues, that’s okay, we don’t have to agree on everything, but this is how we are going to do it, we are going to support the Department of Defense. This country is important.”

US companies have in the past come under fire from their employees for working with the Pentagon. A notable example of this was Google’s decision to stop working on the DoD’s Project Maven, which sought to use Artificial Intelligence to analyse images captured by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

Thousands of Google employees signed up to a petition against the company’s involvement leading it to let the contract lapse. The petition called for Google to stay out of the “business of war”.

Commenting on the need for the leadership of tech companies to bolster the case for working with the DoD Bezos added: “I know it’s complicated but, you know, do you want a strong national defence or don’t you? I think you do. So we have to support that.”

Amazon narrowly lost out on the defence cloud programme contract to Microsoft but was originally expected to win based on its work on a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) cloud project.

Regarding the JEDI contract, AWS previously told Army Technology: “AWS is uniquely experienced and qualified to provide the critical technology the US military needs, and remains committed to supporting the DoD’s modernisation effort.

“We also believe it’s critical for our country that the government and its elected leaders administer procurements objectively and in a manner that is free from political influence.”