Speaking at the Wired 25th anniversary last month month, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced that his company will continue to accept Pentagon contracts. That includes a very controversial cloud-computing contract that Google and Microsoft have already backed out of due to vocal employee opposition to working with the U.S. military.
Amazon was long considered the front-runner for this contract, but Bezos’s rationale for taking it goes well beyond its being low-hanging fruit. He’s argued that the government’s job is to “make the right decision, even when it’s unpopular,” and that large tech companies should support those decisions irrespective of politics.
The $10 billion tied to the contract can’t hurt either. Whatever his motivation for sucking it up and taking one for team tech, Bezos’s public justification is a poor one, and it isn’t hard to see why. The Pentagon has a long history of immoral and reckless behavior, actions that objectively aren’t beneficial to the defense of the United States. Any company that blindly works with them does so at its own peril.
Employees at Google and Microsoft have already made a powerful case for why tech giants shouldn’t collaborate with the Defense Department. They don’t want to be responsible for developing technology that causes substantial harm, surveils others in violation of international norms, or contravenes human rights. The Pentagon can be counted on to do all three, and more.
Furthermore, the Pentagon’s growing interest in artificial intelligence (A.I.), particularly as it relates to warfighting, sounds out of the preamble for a dystopian novel. Hence why Google employees forced their company not to renew a controversial Pentagon contract in June involving A.I. While Amazon will be signing on to cloud computing, not A.I., it’s still more than a little concerning that Bezos was so adamant about the virtues of the DoD. (For what it’s worth, Amazon already works with the CIA.)
But Amazon has an interest that extends far beyond this single deal. The real prize is to become the military’s sole procurement source for off-the-shelf components. Disdainfully labeled Amazon.mil by critics, this initiative is a result of a congressional mandate that the Pentagon shift procurement to a single online marketplace.
The mandate is supposed to save the Pentagon money when buying run-of-the-mill items like bottled water. It would also give Amazon, the presumptive facilitator, a virtual monopoly on selling a vast array of items to a government department with nearly limitless money that’s notorious for overpaying for things.
Amazon is one of very few online companies that could even claim to provide this sort of service. In eagerly contracting with the Pentagon elsewhere, Bezos is laying the groundwork for this much bigger relationship.
Full Commentary by Jason Ditz @ The American Conservative https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/amazon-joins-the-military-to-further-its-dominance/