In 2018, Microsoft employees released a controversial letter arguing that the company should turn down a $ 10 billion business opportunity. The authors opposed Microsoft’s offer for the US Department of Defense’s cloud contract for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure. That same year, a group of Amazon employees followed suit, criticizing their company’s support for surveillance technology for defense and homeland security purposes. Most notably, Google stopped its work on artificial intelligence for the department in Project Maven in 2019 due to resistance from its employees.
While these stories are troubling, the real barriers to working with the Department of Defense for many American tech companies, especially small startups, reside not in misguided techno-moralism, but rather in the Department of Defense’s self-imposed bureaucratic obstacles.