Jeff Bezos has warned American military leaders that the US risks losing its superiority in technologies that have been key to its national security.
Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum, an annual gathering of US military leaders and defence contractors, the Amazon chief executive officer suggested that China’s attempt to steal an edge in important technologies represented a new type of threat to US military supremacy, which has been based for decades on a clear technological superiority.
“Do you really want to plan for a future where you have to fight with someone who is as good as you are?” he asked the annual gathering at the Reagan Presidential Library. “This is not a sporting competition. You don’t want to fight fair.”
The Amazon boss singled out space as one area where US leadership was in doubt. “We’ve had an advantage in space — I’m very nervous that it’s changing rapidly,” he said. Mr Bezos has been pouring around $1bn year of his Amazon fortune into Blue Origin, his personal space company, which has set its sights on eventually selling launch services to the US Department of Defense.
Commenting on the US space sector, he said: “They’re facing adversaries who are good at innovating. If you’re facing adversaries who are good at innovating, you have to do it more.”
Mr Bezos’ appearance before top US military leaders came two weeks after he sued the Pentagon for failing to award a contract to Amazon Web Services, his company’s cloud computing arm, worth up to $10bn.
The contract, to operate a single data platform to support all US military operations, went instead to Microsoft after an eleventh-hour intervention by President Donald Trump — a decision that Amazon claims was the result of bias. Mr Bezos is also the owner of the Washington Post, which has been fiercely critical of the president.
The Amazon boss did not comment on the Jedi contract. But he struck a strong position in support of the US military, arguing that making the country’s top private sector technology available to the Pentagon was essential to the preservation of freedom and democracy. That was in contrast to some other tech companies, most notably Google, which have steered away from some types of military work after complaints from workers.
“My view is, if Big Tech is going to turn their back on national defence, this country is in trouble,” Mr Bezos said. Referring to the protests from some tech workers, he added: “I understand people are emotional. But there is truth in the world. We’re the good guys.”
Satya Nadella, chief executive of Microsoft, has taken a similar stance, even though he has faced protests from some employees over his company’s work for the US government on national security.