Jeff Bezos thinks the U.S. military should work more closely with the largest American tech firms because “We are the good guys, I really do believe that.”
Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum this weekend, the Amazon CEO warned that China was a growing threat to U.S. tech supremacy. “If big tech is going to turn their backs on the Department of Defense, this country is in trouble, that just can’t happen,” he said.
Who’s turning their backs
Bezos didn’t name names, but it’s pretty clear he was subtweeting Google. Last year, the company said it wouldn’t renew a contract with the Department of Defense for Project Maven, a program that used Google’s artificial intelligence to analyze drone footage.
- While Google was still actively working on Project Maven, more than 3,100 employees signed a petition requesting that CEO Sundar Pichai cancel the contract.
- “We believe that Google should not be in the business of war,” it read. “We cannot outsource the moral responsibility of our technologies to third parties.”
“I know it’s complicated but you know, do you want a strong national defense or don’t you? I think you do. So we have to support that,” he said.
Amazon is supporting that, actively pushing its tech to law enforcement and national security agencies. Its controversial facial recognition software, Rekognition, has been used by police departments around the country. In the summer of 2018, it pitched Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials on using Rekognition.
- Most recently, Amazon lost out to Microsoft on a $10 billion cloud computing contract with the Pentagon. Amazon filed a lawsuit earlier this month alleging Trump’s apparent bias against Bezos and Amazon hurt its chances.
Bottom line: To Bezos, companies providing the U.S. military with the best technology available is not a decision to be made but a patriotic duty. “This is not a sporting competition. You don’t want to fight fair,” he said.