Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Seattle, WA, United States (4E) – Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has no qualms about working on a controversial Pentagon program Google recently abandoned out of conflicting ethical issues.
Bezos has his eye squarely on becoming the sole provider of the massive cloud services demanded by the Pentagon’s lucrative “Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud” (JEDI) program. Worth over $10 billion, JEDI aims to find a solution that will allow the U.S. Armed Forces to transfer massive amounts of data and processing power to the cloud.
The Pentagon defines JEDI as a single indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract that will be its largest cloud vehicle.
“This is going to be more than an IT system,” said Brig. Gen. David Krumm, deputy director for requirements for the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. “It’s not email, this is not cloud storage, it’s not data transfer. This is about how us and you together are going to change the way that this nation, its soldiers, its sailors, its marines and airmen fight and win our nation’s wars.”
The Pentagon currently lacks an efficient means of getting timely information and systems to remote areas where the U.S. conducts military operations.
“If you’re a student of military history, you know that lives have been saved and lost and that battles and wars have been won or lost based on bad, no or late information,” said Gen Krumm.
Should Amazon secure the JEDI contract, the project implementation will be left to Amazon Web Services (AWS), the Amazon subsidiary of that provides on-demand cloud computing platforms to individuals, companies and governments on a paid subscription basis. AWS technology allows subscribers to access a virtual cluster of computers, available all the time, through the Internet.
“If big tech companies are going to turn their back on the DoD (Department of Defense), this country is going to be in trouble,” said Bezos.
“We are going to continue to support the DoD, and I think we should,” said Bezos. “One of the jobs of senior leadership is to make the right decision, even when it’s unpopular.”
Bezos did admit some technologies might be misused, but that’s not a reason to stop their development. He compared current technology to the invention of books, which have been used for good and bad, including creating “fascist empires.”
“The last thing we’d ever want to do is stop the progress of new technologies,” according to Bezos. Eventually, society will develop an “immune response” to bad uses of technology, believes Bezos.
Like Sundar Pichai at Google, Bezos is facing an angry backlash from Amazon employees over its business deals with U.S. government agencies. Amazon has already worked with the DoD and multiple law enforcement agencies have used “Rekognition,” its facial recognition system.
Anti-Rekognition Amazon employees and civil liberties organizations clain the software could be used violate human rights.
“I like this country,” said Bezos. “I know everyone is conflicted about the current politics in this country — this country is a gem. It is amazing. It’s still the best place in the world. It’s the place people want to come. There aren’t other countries where everybody’s trying to get in. I’d let them in if it were up to me. I like them. I want all of them in. This is a great country and it does need to be defended.”
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