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Microsoft Inspired By JEDI Contract


Image via Franck V. on Unsplash

The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, contract has been closely followed over the last nearly two years. The $10 billion cloud computing contract for the U.S. Department of Defense was highly coveted by a handful of the top technology companies.


The contract was twice put on hold over allegations of conflicts of interest and favoritism, before ultimately being awarded to Microsoft last year. Less than a month later, Amazon challenged the awarding of the contract, resulting in a temporary restraining order that blocked the contract from moving forward.


Despite the review not expected to be complete until September 16, Microsoft is reportedly already seeking contracts with foreign governments for similar cloud computing bundles.


Microsoft has reportedly seen interest from foreign governments as employees shifted attention from the JEDI deal to attracting foreign business while the contract is still being reviewed. Microsoft may formally announce its push into the market later this year as intelligence agencies and militaries outside the U.S. could reportedly be interested.


"We've worked with governments around the world on a longstanding and reliable basis for four decades," a Microsoft spokesperson said. "We have government customers using our products to enhance their services with the latest in commercial innovations, deeply engage and connect with citizens in powerful ways, and empower government employees with the modern tools they need to be more efficient and effective, and to give them time back to focus on their agency mission."


Microsoft appears intent on pushing deeper into contracts similar to JEDI, which caused its employees to write an open letter against the contract in 2018.


"With JEDI, Microsoft executives are on track to betray these principles in exchange for short-term profits," the letter said. "If Microsoft is to be accountable for the products and services it makes, we need clear ethical guidelines and meaningful accountability governing how we determine which uses of our technology are acceptable, and which are off the table."


Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella defended the company's attempt to win the contract in response to the letter.


"As an American company, we're not going to withhold technology from the institutions that we have elected in our democracy to protect the freedoms we enjoy," Nadella said. "It's not necessary for all of the 100,000-plus people at Microsoft to agree on everything, but for us, as a management team, [we need] to be very clear about the decisions we make, what are the principles and be transparent about it."


At a time when technology employees aren't shy to publicly voice their disagreements with their employers, it will be interesting to watch how Microsoft employees react to the company further expanding into contracts with foreign governments.


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