Microsoft's CEO is Defending its Military Contract Amid Employee Backlash
Photo Credit: Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., departs the 'Tech For Good' meeting at Elysee Palace in Paris, France, on Wednesday, May 23, 2018. A group of industry executives met with France's President Emmanuel Macron to discuss how to use technology to improve people's lives. Photographer: Christophe Morin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Microsoft's CEO is Defending its Military Contract Amid Employee Backlash

On Friday, Microsoft employees issued a letter criticizing the company’s Pentagon contract and calling for it to end.

Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella, however, seems to disagree.

In an interview with CNN, Nadella defended the company’s military contract as a “principled decision.”

“We made a principled decision that we’re not going to withhold technology from institutions that we have elected in democracies to protect the freedoms we enjoy,” Nadella told CNN Business, “We were very transparent about that decision and we’ll continue to have that dialogue [with employees].”

Microsoft won a $480 million contract with the Department of Defense to supply as many as 100,000 HoloLens prototypes for military use. A government description of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) said it was meant to “increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide, and engage before the enemy,” as reported by Bloomberg.

In a letter — addressed to both Nadella and company president Brad Smith — employees wrote, “We did not sign up to develop weapons and we demand a say in how our work is used,” going on to add, “Intent to harm is not an acceptable use of our technology.”

The letter has now been signed by 200+ employees, according to TechCrunch, but Nadella’s interview makes it clear that the company doesn’t plan to back down. Considering Microsoft’s history — that shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Last summer, hundreds of employees called out the company for working with the US’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The company declined to tell Gizmodo which of its tools ICE was using or whether it was developing artificial intelligence tools for ICE.

Although Microsoft said it was “dismayed” by some of ICE’s actions, such as separating children from parents, executives continued defending their decision to partner with the government agency.

Despite Nadella’s interview, it’s likely that Microsoft employees will continue pushing back against the company’s decision.