Microsoft has recently entered a bid for the US Department of Defence’s JEDI cloud system which would see a single technology provider provide a single integrated cloud system for the whole Department of Defence.
A number of anonymous purported Microsoft employees have objected against the move, saying in a Medium blog post “Many Microsoft employees don’t believe that what we build should be used for waging war.” The Medium post notes their technology and work would be used to “aid profiling, surveillance, or killing.”
Now in a response, Microsoft’s chief legal counsel Brad Smith has restated Microsoft’s commitment to working with the US military.
He notes that Microsoft was a US company who prospered for 43 years through the many benefits USA offered. He notes that Microsoft has been working with the US Military for more than 40 years and that their technology can already be found throughout all its branches.
Brad stated that Microsoft believed in the strong defence of the United States and wanted the people who defended it to have access to the nation’s best technology.
“We want the people of this country and especially the people who serve this country to know that we at Microsoft have their backs. They will have access to the best technology that we create.”
He acknowledged that the US military did not have an “unblemished record”, but still felt overall it has been a force for good, saying:
… one thing is clear. Millions of Americans have served and fought in important and just wars, including helping to free African-Americans who were enslaved until the Civil War and liberate nations that had been subjected to tyranny across Western Europe in World War II. Today the citizens in our military risk their lives not only as the country’s first line of defense, but often as the nation’s first line of assistance around the world in hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and other disasters.
In a ‘like it or lump it’ statement to employees that disagreed, he suggested that in many cases they could seek alternate assignments inside Microsoft, but stopped short of suggesting Microsoft employees would have the benefit of being conscientious objectors.
We believe that the debate about the role of the tech sector and the military in this country has sometimes missed two fundamental points. First, we believe that the people who defend our country need and deserve our support. And second, to withdraw from this market is to reduce our opportunity to engage in the public debate about how new technologies can best be used in a responsible way. We are not going to withdraw from the future. In the most positive way possible, we are going to work to help shape it.
Read Brad’s full statement here.