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'We do not want to become war profiteers' — Microsoft employees outraged over Army HoloLens contract
The Army has a bit of a Silicon Valley problem.
Microsoft employees — over 250 now, according to the Microsoft Workers 4 Good Twitter account — are furious about their company's $479 million contract with the U.S. Army for augmented reality headsets.
In a letter to CEO Satya Nadella and President Brad Smith, employees wrote that they "do not want to become war profiteers" and that Microsoft is enabling the Army's "ability to cause harm and violence."
Meanwhile, Nadella told CNN on Monday that Microsoft is "not going to withhold technology from institutions that we have elected in democracies to protect the freedoms we enjoy."
The contract was awarded in November 2018 for the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS). Army Undersecretary Ryan McCarthy said on Tuesday morning at an AUSA breakfast that IVAS is "a signature priority" in the Army's budget.
The Army said in its contract announcement last year that IVAS "will provide an unparalleled advantage on the battlefield.' McCarthy described the equipment on Tuesday as a pair of glasses that could have an interface with thermal or night vision in combat and collect data on things like their marksmanship and heart rates for use in training, which could result in an "exponential increase in their performance."
This isn't the government's first run-in with Silicon Valley — it's not even the first with Microsoft. More than 100 employees protested Microsoft's work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement last summer; Google declined to renew a contract with the Pentagon after employee backlash over an artificial-intelligence drone system; and Amazon employees demanded that CEO Jeff Bezos stop selling facial recognition software to law enforcement.
"It's important for us to have a conversation with not only Silicon Valley but the country," McCarthy told reporters. "That we need these capabilities, that we would hope that our best and brightest in the country would want to make systems for us....so that we have the best the world has to offer."
But the Microsoft employees argue in their letter that they weren't properly informed of how their work would be used, and that they were working on the HoloLens before the Army contract came about. The HoloLens technology was originally described as something that architects or video gamers could use, the Washington Post reports.
"The application of HoloLens within the IVAS system is designed to help people kill," the open letter states. "It will be deployed on the battlefield, and works by turning warfare into a simulated 'video game,' further distancing soldiers from the grim stakes of war and the reality of bloodshed."
"It would not be appropriate for us to comment on the polices of a private corporation. We value all of our relationships with commercial tech companies," Army spokesman Lt. Col. Isaac Taylor told Task & Purpose in a statement. "Partnering with the best tech companies in the world will help preserve the critical lead of the United States in artificial intelligence. Maintaining our overmatch against potential adversaries and deterring aggression is the safest way to preserve peace."
The Post reports that the military could purchase "more than 100,000 of the systems in the coming years."
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HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (Reuters) - U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said on Friday a Navy SEAL convicted of battlefield misconduct should face a board of peers weighing whether to oust him from the elite force, despite President Donald Trump's assertion that he not be expelled.
"I believe the process matters for good order and discipline," Spencer told Reuters, weighing in on a confrontation between Trump and senior Navy officials over the outcome of a high-profile war-crimes case.
A military jury in July convicted Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher of illegally posing for pictures with the corpse of an Islamic State fighter but acquitted him of murder in the detainee's death. Gallagher also was cleared of charges that he deliberately fired on unarmed civilians.
The Air Force has identified the two airmen killed in a training accident on Thursday as Lt. Col John "Matt" Kincade, 47, and 2nd Lt. Travis B. Wilkie, 23.
Kincade and Wilkie were killed at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma during a training mission involving T-38C Talon aircraft, the Air Force said. Two T-38s were training in formation when the incident occurred during the landing phase, according to a press release.
A Marine lance corporal has become the first female Marine in history to graduate the Basic Reconnaissance Course, earning the military occupational specialty of 0321 Reconnaissance Marine.
Lance Cpl. Alexa Barth completed the 12-week course on Nov. 7, said Maj. Kendra Motz, a Marine spokeswoman. Barth previously graduated from the Corps' Infantry Training Battalion-East, earning the MOS of 0311 Rifleman.
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- By day, Arik Rangel works as a U.S. Coast Guard operations specialist third class, but when the spotlight hits, his stage name and personalty -- Arik Cavalli -- takes over.
Rangel, born in San Marcos, Tx., was raised by a single mother with three sisters. He didn't want his mother to have to support him after high school, so he honored her and his country by joining the U.S. Air Force in 2012.
He worked as a senior airman in the Knowledge Operations Management field and was in the Air Force reserves for three years. In 2015, he joined the U.S. Coast Guard as an operations specialist and is currently stationed at Fort Wadsworth.
A new documentary tells the heroic story of the first Marine to earn the Medal of Honor since Vietnam
More than 15 years ago, Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham gave his life to save his fellow Marines on the streets of Husaybah, Iraq when he leaped upon a grenade. In 2007, he became the first Marine since the Vietnam War to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
In the years since his death, his story of courage and sacrifice has been told and re-told. His Medal of Honor citation is read to Marine recruits during the Crucible at boot camp. And his name adorns the USS Jason Dunham, where his dress blue uniform rests in a clear display case on the quarterdeck, a solemn shrine to a young man who gave his life for his brothers in arms.
Now, Marines who served with Dunham are sharing his story in their own words, and a small group of military veterans and film makers are helping them do it as part of The Gift, a crowd-funded documentary film chronicling his life, and legacy.