Google has privately stated that it can compete for the Pentagon’s lucrative cloud computing contracts without violating the U.S. government’s prohibition on “aggregators” of U.S. defense information, according to a report by Bloomberg.
The cloud computing market is forecast to grow to $80 billion by 2023, thanks in part to the Pentagon’s plans to replace its disparate systems with a single, popular system. After the London-based cloud computing company SoftLayer Technologies, which Amazon owned at the time, lost the $600 million contract to that company, Google filed a protest with the General Services Administration. The company’s objections centered on its belief that the contract would favor Amazon’s cloud computing services over Google’s.
The GSA decided that Google’s objection was inapplicable because Google needed to compete with Amazon to receive the contract.
But Google has also publicly communicated to military officials that it should be able to compete, because the contract prohibited “aggregators” of U.S. defense information. The prohibition was created to protect the nation’s “national defense interests and the integrity of U.S. military systems.” Google effectively is trying to join other companies that already can receive those contracts but choose not to so that the relationship between Pentagon and Google can be “stronger,” Bloomberg reported.
Some veterans organizations had threatened to boycott the Google accounts if it loses the contract.
“Google has stated that they believe their practice of self-funding its alternative intelligence community is ‘indispensable,’” according to a letter from Scott Davis, executive director of the American Legion, to Vice President Mike Pence. “If Google does not prove that their funding model and work to be accepted by the American Legion is ‘indispensable,’ we will consider ending our long-standing relationship with Google.”
Google and the Pentagon have had a troubled relationship for years. In 2014, the Defense Department “apologized” to Google for including the company’s advertising services in Defense.gov’s search results. Last October, Google apologized to the Pentagon for “taking down important information from Wikipedia” for 30 seconds, with a Pentagon spokesperson saying the company quickly reverted the results to make them more in line with the department’s wishes.
The Pentagon also received a report about the privacy concerns surrounding Google Photos in 2014.
The Pentagon has been trying to move its various systems under one cloud-based cloud computing program, known as Defense Information Systems Agency’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI). The plan has suffered several delays, most recently last November, when the Pentagon relented to the Department of Defense and issued a preliminary contract for Microsoft to operate the program on behalf of the department.
But current proposals have been criticized as part of the JEDI program that does not adequately protect military data. Criticism centered on a proposal that allowed companies to use their own encryption that could be decrypted without the proper notification.
Johny Hendrickson is chief executive of PrecisionHawk, a strategic defense and technology consultancy. Follow him on Twitter @JohnyHendrickson
Johny Hendrickson is the former executive director of the United States Institute of Peace. Follow him on Twitter @johney1826
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