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Microsoft President Brad Smith. Photo: Microsoft

Microsoft said Friday it plans to continue seeking work with the U.S. military on a range of projects, including a controversial cloud computing contract.

Why it matters: Some employees have raised concerns, particular as powerful new technologies like artificial intelligence could enable autonomous warfare.

"We believe that the people who defend our country need and deserve our support," Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a blog post. "To withdraw from this market is to reduce our opportunity to engage in the public debate about how new technologies can best be used in a responsible way. We are not going to withdraw from the future. In the most positive way possible, we are going to work to help shape it."

Smith acknowledged concerns, especially around AI, but said that Microsoft believes engaging in public dialog, while continuing to provide technology to the military is the best approach.

"Artificial intelligence, augmented reality and other technologies are raising new and profoundly important issues, including the ability of weapons to act autonomously. As we have discussed these issues with governments, we’ve appreciated that no military in the world wants to wake up to discover that machines have started a war. But we can’t expect these new developments to be addressed wisely if the people in the tech sector who know the most about the technology withdraw from the conversation."
— Microsoft president Brad Smith

Smith also said that Microsoft will work with employees opposed to such work to transfer to other areas.

"We don’t ask or expect everyone who works at Microsoft to support every position the company takes," Smith said. "We also respect the fact that some employees work in or may be citizens of other countries, and they may not want to work on certain projects."

The context: A group of Microsoft employees signed a letter, posted on Medium, urging the software maker not to bid on the cloud computing contract.

"Many Microsoft employees don’t believe that what we build should be used for waging war," the letter states. "When we decided to work at Microsoft, we were doing so in the hopes of 'empowering every person on the planet to achieve more,' not with the intent of ending lives and enhancing lethality."

Smith noted in Friday's blog post that the company has already bid on the contract, which has not been awarded, and said "it’s an example of the kind of kind of work we are committed to doing."

Go deeper

California to pay off unpaid rent accrued during COVID-19 pandemic

California Gov. Gavin Newsom. Photo: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

California will pay off the accumulated unpaid rent that has piled up during the COVID-19 pandemic, the AP reports.

Why it matters: The move would fulfill a promise to landlords to help them to break even, while giving renters relief, the AP writes.

U.S. announces destinations for 55 million more COVID vaccine doses

President Biden at a press conference on the final day of the G7 summit. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration on Monday announced a list of countries that will receive the remaining 55 million COVID-19 vaccine doses that the U.S. has pledged to allocate by the end of this month.

The state of play: The White House had previously named the recipients of the first 25 million of the 80 million doses that the U.S. has pledged to export, as it took its first step toward becoming a global vaccine supplier.