Microsoft Set To Win Secret Clearance Ahead Of Pentagon Cloud Bid

artificial intelligence

Microsoft is battling Amazon’s AWS for the multi-billion-pound deal, after Google pulled out due to ethical concerns

Microsoft said this week it is set to receive the US government’s top security clearance early next year, as it prepares to bid for a Pentagon cloud contract worth up to $10 billion (£7.7bn).

The announcement follows on from the company’s announcement last October that it was developing a cloud service to handle secret government data, called Azure Government Secret.

It is battling Amazon’s AWS for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (Jedi) cloud deal, which could last up to 10 years, after Google said earlier this week that it was pulling out of bidding.

The bidding is set to begin on Friday.

Google drops out

Google dropped out shortly after it was reported that the company had decided not to disclose a data breach involving users of its Google+ social network earlier this year. The company also said it would shutter the little-used service.

In 2016 Microsoft said its Azure Government cloud service ahd been authorised by the Defense Information Systems Agency to handle data with the Information Impact Level 5 (IL-5) clearance level.

Azure Government Secret, announced in October 2017, is planned to take this offering to the next level with IL-6 clearance, the highest level reserved for data such as national security information.

Microsoft said it is now poised to receive the authorisation in the first quarter of next year, bringing it up to par with Amazon’s AWS, currently the only cloud service with IL-6 clearance.

AWS won a $600m deal for the CIA in 2013, one of the reasons it’s seen as the most likely candidate for the Jedi deal, but Microsoft has turned its Azure into a broadly competitive alternative to AWS, in the enterprise and government fields alike.

Other competitors include Oracle and IBM.

AI principles

Google said it would pull out of the bidding in part because the deal could go against principles it published in June, following staff protests against the company’s involvement in developing artificial intelligence for military drones.

“While we are working to support the US government with our cloud in many areas, we are not bidding on the Jedi contract because first, we couldn’t be assured that it would align with our AI principles, and second, we determined that there were portions of the contract that were out of scope with our current government certifications,” Google said in a statement.

Google is currently certified to handle “moderate” secret government data, but not more sensitive material.

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