The corporate war to provide computing for American fighters is over.
Late Friday, the Department of Defense announced that Microsoft has won a Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract, known as JEDI. The decision was the culmination of a two-year process that also included Google, IBM and Oracle, and where Amazon was long regarded as the favorite.
JEDI, potentially worth $ 10 billion over 10 years, has been positioned by the Pentagon as critical to modernizing the use of technology – and making the U.S. military more dangerous.
"We need to improve the speed and efficiency as we develop and distribute modernized technical capabilities to our women and men in uniform," DoD Information Director Dana Deasy said in a statement. At an event that began the tendering process in early 201
The contract promoted bruising competition among some of the world's largest technology companies. Amazon was seen as the favorite because it dominates the cloud computing market and already had major government contracts, including with the CIA. But IBM and Oracle both filed formal protests, claiming that the proposal appeared to be designed with one company in mind – Amazon.
These protests resulted in the contract being reviewed by both the Government Accountability Office and the Court of Federal Claims. , which handles claims against the US government.
JEDI has also highlighted the challenges of technology companies that are also major consumer brands when working with the US government department as specializes in killing people.
Google suddenly dropped out of the race for JEDI in October 2018. The company claimed it was in violation of ethical principles of artificial intelligence it had launched in the wake of employee protests over a Pentagon contract called Maven, which uses machine learning on drone imagery . Earlier this year, as the JEDI process progressed, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella had to defend herself against employee protests over a contract to adapt the company's HoloLens augmented reality headset for the Army.
Microsoft and Amazon did not immediately respond to comment requests.
The Pentagon said Friday that it plans to award more cloud contracts, to more suppliers. Some of Microsoft's rivals in the fight for JEDI can still win their own defense contracts.
Meanwhile, Microsoft will become a mascot for Pentagon's ambitions to adapt commercial technology for defense purposes. This could lead it into disputed territory, as Google found with its Maven contract. This project helped inspire an ambitious new Pentagon AI strategy, and the creation of a joint AI center to accelerate the use of technology across the US military. The center is already building new AI tools and plans to run them at JEDI.
More Great WIRED Stories