Microsoft CEO Defends U.S Military Contract Following Employee Pushback

Posted on February 25, 2019 by Mehedi Hassan in Microsoft with 37 Comments

Microsoft’s HoloLens made a lot of headlines back in November 2018 when the company won a massive $480 million contract with the U.S. Army to make 100,00 specialized HoloLens devices for the military.

The company has recently faced some backlash from employees over the contract. Last week, a group of 50 Microsoft employees signed a letter addressed to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Brad Smith, protesting the company’s HoloLens deal with the military. “While the company has previously licensed tech to the US military, it has never crossed the line into weapons development. With this contract, it does,” the letter said.

Microsoft CEO has now defended the company’s contract with the U.S. Army just a day after the tech giant launched the second-generation HoloLens. In an interview with CNN, Nadella claimed that the company was “very transparent about the decision” it made with the contract. “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,” he said:

“It’s not about taking arbitrary action by a single company, it’s not about 50 people or 100 people or even 100,000 people in a company. It’s really about being a responsible corporate citizen in a democracy,” Nadella later added.

CNN believes more than Microsoft 100 employees have signed the letter so far.

This also isn’t the first time Microsoft is facing backlash over its contracts with a government agency. The company even said last year that it would help employees who are not willing to work on a certain project that could be used by the government by moving them to a different part of the company. And from the looks of things, the company is continuing to remain firm on its position with government contracts.

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Comments (37)

37 responses to “Microsoft CEO Defends U.S Military Contract Following Employee Pushback”

  1. Avatar

    NazmusLabs

    But I simply can’t.

  2. Avatar

    navarac

    The same could be said for companies that make pencils even. Get a life MS employees or get another job, like mowing grass.

  3. Avatar

    simont

    50 to 100 employees demand something out of a total of 134944. That's a joke and I don't see why this is even being covered by the media.

  4. Avatar

    siv

    I think large corporations should as Microsoft have done realise the bigger picture, you don't live in a safe and free democracy without a strong military keeping you safe. I think a lot of the "bleeding hearts and artists" forget this and you can bet they will be the first to start whining when Russian or Chinese bombers are flying over them and dropping bombs.


    They are the same people who in peace time press for reductions in military spending and then wonder why they are being sent to the gulags when their under funded military can't fight back.


    I live in the UK and we nearly went under in the second world war as the politicians had reduced spending after the first world war and if it wasn't for the likes of Reginald Mitchell and Supermarine Aviation building the spitfire along with Sydney Camm and Hawkers and their Hurricane off their own corporate backs, the world might be a very different place today.


    I know I want my soldiers, sailors and airmen to havr the best equipment we can give them, they put their lives at risk for us on a daily basis god bless em!

  5. Avatar

    mattemt294

    Made the right decision here. Hard to have a comfy fortune 500 job when you're being ruled by foreign conquerors. Good for them.

  6. Avatar

    jrswarr

    Good decision Satya. Perhaps these 100 or so disgruntled employees should also get upset about selling Microsoft 365 subscriptions to the Pentagon. In for a penny, in for a pound.

  7. Avatar

    edbellman

    So 50 people would be what, about 0.04% of Microsoft's employees? Even at 100 / 0.08% this whole thing is a non-story to begin with. There will always be people, including employees, who disagree with a company's stance or policy on something, so what?

  8. Avatar

    lordbaal1

    If they don't like it, they can leave.

    Holo Lens will be very useful for the military and training.

  9. Avatar

    derylmccarty

    /sarc IF the 100 or 1000 HoloLens (1 or 2) US Army contract objectors want to cause trouble, they are going about it all wrong. HoloLens is for the troops to make them LESS prone to mistakes and unintended consequences (like American deaths) at less cost. Screwing the troops who will be getting out in a few years and will want to buy personally what they used successfully in the military is a sales losing proposition.


    BUT -- shhh, this is tip top secret -- if you really want to screw up the Pentagon and bring it to a screeching halt, do not renew the military contract for Power Point.

  10. Avatar

    Hoomgar

    They should wise up and quit whining.  If MS doesn't supply the US Military then someone else will.  It's going to happen either way.  Do they really think that this tech is not going to keep evolving?  The military of the world is going to capitalize on any tech they can that gives an advantage or improvement over what they currently have.  If I was an MS employee I'd be thankful that we got the contract!  That group of 50 should stick to mourning the death of Carrots.

  11. Avatar

    mikes_infl

    I'm a little surprised but definitely grateful. As an aging warfighter I can make a knowledgeable statement that this can also be a deterrent toward its use. Having weapons and tools that your enemy knows places you in an extreme tactical advantage is likely to cause those tools to remain dusty. THAT'S the wish of nearly every modern warrior. Only the evil or sick would rather fight than return to home and hearth without any new stories to pass on.

  12. Avatar

    Divodd

    Soldiers are murderers, thus Microsoft and other members of Corporate America are aiding and abetting murder. Business as usual, sadly.

  13. Avatar

    Daekar

    The idiots better stop paying their taxes then, because that partially funds the military.


    Seriously, 100 morons sign a petition and it's news? Only if it's for a liberal cause. If I got a few hundred folks at my work to sign a petition against gun control policies at work (and I could get those signatures easily, everyone here has a gun), you can bet your bottom that nobody would ever hear about it.

  14. Avatar

    jbinaz

    Good for Nadella.

  15. Avatar

    ncn

     “While the company has previously licensed tech to the US military, it has never crossed the line into weapons development. With this contract, it does,”


    If you're doing anything for the military, you're philosophically already all-in. To hide behind "well, I didn't actually make a weapon" is intellectually dishonest. Some way, some how, you helped make it possible for that weapon to draw a bead on someone.

  16. Avatar

    Mark from CO

    Mehedi:

    I wonder if those who support the contract feel ‘empowered’ to express their thoughts to Microsoft’s management? Given the behind the curtain views we have of several of the tech giant’s cultures the last year (e.g. Google and Facebook), I’m not so sure.

    100 employees are a minor, minor, minor number of Microsoft’s total employee base. Seems the publicity they are getting far outstrips this number. Why the publicity?

    Microsoft sells products in a free and competitive US marketplace. US law, and recent Supreme Court decisions, say you must serve all in that marketplace. You can’t discriminate. And yes, that may even mean you may have to sell to the US government.   

    • Avatar

      lvthunder

      In reply to Mark from CO:

      They get the publicity because the media is overwhelmingly liberal and most liberals don't like the military. Especially on the extreme end.

      • Avatar

        AnOldAmigaUser

        In reply to lvthunder:

        And most on the right are racist, misogynistic, Nazis...

        Dude, neither platitude is correct.

        Oh, and the media is hardly overwhelmingly liberal. There are outlets of all sorts you can view; the problem is that too few of us, view a cross-section, and we are all too ready to demonize those "others".

      • Avatar

        wright_is

        In reply to lvthunder:

        We'll see Nadella doing his Jack Nicholson impression next.

        Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives! You don't want the truth, because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall. We use words like "honor", "code", "loyalty". We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said "thank you", and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to!

    • Avatar

      rbwatson0

      In reply to Mark from CO:

      Please note that this excellent news report was by Mehedi.

  17. Avatar

    coreyp

    Boo hoo. Don't like your company working with a certain client, quit.

  18. Avatar

    j_c

    Makes me actually like Nadella.


    The thinking in the letter circulating around is very naive and entitled.

  19. Avatar

    wp7mango

    Another way to look at is this...


    If you create technology to help a soldier make a better decision and avoid innocent casualties, isn't that worthwhile? What if the enemy develops their own AR headset and the Hololens therefore evens things out to help defend against that threat?


    What if the device isn't used for war but is used for medical support or engineering support? Afterall, the army also supports civilians in peace time, for example, if there is a national emergency due to some natural disaster.

  20. Avatar

    Pierre Masse

    I will take that in consideration when it will be time to resubscribe to Office 365.


    *Nadella annouces Microsoft 365 for consumers*


    Shut up and take my money!

  21. Avatar

    JCerna

    I can see this tech being used by security, cops, military, TSA, etc. It has the potential to save lives as a prevention and detection tool.

  22. Avatar

    Pungkuss

    Employees did the same thing at Google and a ton of folks cheered them on as Google left bidding on contracts to Amazon and Microsoft. Would love the people cheering that decision to keep the same energy.

  23. Avatar

    locust infested orchard inc

    The furore by the Microsoft employees regarding the planned use of HoloLens as a military tool stems from the introductory description as stated by the US government Federal Business Opportunities website, FBO.org, where the US Army were seeking to, and I quote verbatim (unlike almost everybody else on the internet, simply regurgitating and playing Chinese whispers with the original text):


    "Problem Statement: The fundamental problem to overcome is an erosion in close combat capability relative to the pacing threats identified in the National Defense Strategy. The ultimate objective of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) (formerly identified as Heads Up Display (HUD) 3.0) program is to rapidly develop, test, and manufacture a single platform that Soldiers can use to Fight, Rehearse, and Train. This platform will provide increased Lethality, Mobility and Situational Awareness."‡★


    The 150 or so Microsofties who have been vociferous in their campaign against their employer engaging with the US Army to utilise HoloLens as Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) stems from the phrase "increased lethality".


    Let history serve as a reminder of mankind's brutality and vindictiveness. The Gospels from the leading faiths have indicated the first murder occurred when the first two sons of Prophet Adam, Cain murdered his brother, Abel. Henceforth, man has prevailed in its lethality of force against another, should one not submit to the will of the other (usually after failed negotiations and/or settlements, or reneging of promises).


    Some would argue that there have been and currently are despotic totalitarian autocratic dictators and their military operatives that deserve to be culled from the World (e.g. Bastard al-Assad, pardon me, Bashar al-Assad).


    WWII was the bloodiest war ever with an average estimate of fatalities of approximately 85 million over a six year period. Compared to the Syrian Civil War, approaching its eighth anniversary in mid-March, with 23 nations partaking in this mindless armed conflict, with a death toll of about half-a-million, with more than 7.5 million civilians internally displaced, and over 5 millions refugees.


    Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and David Cameron (former Prime Minister of the UK) with his parliamentarians in Aug 2013, failed to show any leadership in concluding the Syrian war. In spite of Dr. Bastard (darn it, but he might as well be, Dr. Bashar, having gained a postgraduate degree in ophthalmology from London, so he knows full well the effects of chlorine gas on the eyes, hence his weapon of choice on his own citizens).


    After the disastrous outcomes in the second Iraq war, both during the war and post-war, neither the US nor UK administration had any intention or conviction into going to war with a massive military presence with boots-on-the-ground in Syria. Only a couple of airstrikes were undertaken – anyone with a modicum of logic can understand airstrikes, regardless of their laser-guided precision, are the most lethal, yet ineffective in decimating those belonging to the 'axis of evil', to use a George W. Bush phrase. 


    As with the Iraq war, both the Syrian war and the war in Yemen are examples of urban warfare. To be able to neutralise the aggressors effectively, thereby reducing the overall span of war, thus markedly reducing civilian casualties, one requires to have increased lethality, mobility and situational awareness as compared to today's US/UK troops.


    It should be stated that I am not a warmonger nor do I take enjoyment in the misery of others (be in war or in tranquil environment), but nor am I a pacifist. Understanding the psyche of man based on the egregious history of mankind, the pragmatic approach is to be recognisant of the unsavory elements of society/World, and deal with them in a manner that is most appropriate, as guided by the rule of Law. When state actors use their military might, it becomes incumbent upon the wealthy nations to take a quick, decisive, lethal stand against those that fail to engage in diplomacy, to end the crisis in question as swiftly as possible, minimising the local civilian population involvement and their possessions in the war. 


    Over the last three decades, the lethal weapon of choice has been in the use of military aircrafts and their precision laser-guided shelling of so-called target areas, resulting in (for want of a more apt phrase) collateral damage. This has resulted in millions of innocent bystanders having lost their lives, with many millions more losing their limbs, loved ones, possessions, and their livelihood.


    The US Army recognise that the use of sophisticated technology can give a vast upper hand to the soldiers on the ground with live data being fed to them in real time, along with enhanced encrypted communications, infra-red (body-seeking) vision, etc. If such advancement give the soldiers enhanced lethality (in the eradication of the enemy), mobility, and situational awareness compared to the US soldier of today, then surely it is a boon for the World.


    In this way, HoloLens as a Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) will be serving humanity in which one could only have visualised in a Hollywood movie of yesteryear. Microsoft could very well be on a path to potentially saving millions of lives through HoloLens, for which all the designers, developers, engineers, programmers should collectively feel proud in the production of HoloLens. It has already had an impact within surgical operating theatres, and now it is destined to go out into enemy territory to neutralise with enhanced lethality the existential threat to the local population and further afield.


    Microsoft FTW.


    Satya Nadella making the correct moral decision, whilst Tim Cook, Larry Page, Sundar Pichai, Evan Spiegel, Mark Zuckerberg are only interested in ads, animojis, data-harvesting, notches, and double Irish with a Dutch sandwich tax-avoidance scheme.



    ‡ Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) White Paper (Third Amendment) PDF Source:

    https://www.fbo.gov/utils/view?id=931ee0c3ac81a5c93512000d0c4456c3



    ★ Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) Contract Details & White Papers:

    https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&mode=form&tab=core&id=288bc3e1eb8d4514f6ed1fd1dcbb9c20

    • Avatar

      Detective Polarphant

      Thanks for your comment - which is really more like an article. Regardless of whether readers agree or disagree with your point of view, the integrity of your research and thought are very welcome.


    • Avatar

      Passinttd

      In reply to locust infested orchard inc:

      This one one well researched and thought out post that I did not expect on this topic. Thank you for bringing facts and logic to a topic that most just simply sit and throw a temper tantrum over.


      This device could save that new soldier, that is forced into the unthinkable situation of war, from accidentally discharging his weapon on a kid that wonders down the wrong road at the wrong time. I know patriotism isn't the coolest thing to have these days but I still believe America to be the best country on Earth. A place where you can still dream and do right.

  24. Avatar

    sharpsone

    Do your job folks, everyone thinks their opinion matters these days and it does but only in your inner circle... Don't bite the hand that feeds. Go work for someone else but don't try to force US companies to stand idle so communism can prevail. Do you honestly think Russia and China are our friends? Hell no they use the Global economy to build their war machine in hopes that one day they'll be able to go toe to toe with the US and its allies. We will meet WW3 head on if we give them an opportunity to succeed while #hurtfeelings is underway by a generation of social media morons. American companies should embrace contracts that support soldiers protecting our borders. What good will your paycheck or opinion be if this country no longer exists under the red, white and blue?

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