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The Army’s relationship with Austin hits new stride—and snags

April 5, 2024

Lauren C. Williams

Defense One

Defense Department signs at SXSW in Austin, Texas. DEFENSE ONE / LAUREN C. WILLIAMS

By Lauren C. Williams, Defense One / April 5, 2024

AUSTIN, Texas—The Pentagon has put down roots in Texas. And while protests here around defense technology and human rights have persisted, the tech industry’s relationship with the Defense Department is hitting a new stride. 

As pedicabs whizzed by pedestrians in bright “SXSW 2024” gear on a colorful Congress Avenue corner, a purple-and-white sign stood out: “#dodXtech”.

It’s a scene that was almost unimaginable in 2018 when Google and Microsoft employees protested their companies’ involvement in Project Maven—an AI-driven surveillance program designed to make sense of objects in a trove of image data points. That program has since grown, even though Google exited amid employee protests. (The company has since gone on to help the Pentagon on several projects, including cloud computingAI, and cybersecurity.)

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