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Pentagon says $10 billion cloud computing contract going to Microsoft

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Washington (AFP)

The Pentagon said Friday it was awarding a $10 billion cloud computing contract to Microsoft, following a highly scrutinized bidding process which Amazon had been favored to win.

The 10-year contract for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure program, better known as JEDI, ultimately will see all military branches sharing information in one system that can be scoured in real time with the help of artificial intelligence.

The Pentagon earlier this year put off awarding the hefty contract, saying that the process would be reviewed by the newly appointed defense secretary.

Amazon was considered the lead contender to provide technology for the JEDI program but critics argued that the bidding process favored the Seattle-based technology titan.

The move to stall the contract process came a week after Mark Esper was confirmed as the new US secretary of defense.

Esper was selected by US President Donald Trump, who has lashed out at Amazon and company founder Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post.

The contract has caused controversy over whether internet giants who say they want to make the world better should be involved in the defense industry.

Amazon chief Bezos had defended the company's bid, saying it was important to support US defense efforts, even if it is unpopular.

Microsoft was Amazon's only rival in the bidding for the winner-take-all contract, despite employees urging it to drop out.

"Many Microsoft employees don't believe that what we build should be used for waging war," read a blog post on Medium.

"The contract is massive in scope and shrouded in secrecy, which makes it nearly impossible to know what we as workers would be building."

Microsoft has defended its interest in military contracts, saying at one point, "All of us who live in this country depend on its strong defense."

Google had dropped out of the race for the contract, saying the deal would be inconsistent with its principles.

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