I’ve written recently about Microsoft taking on the role of the tech industry’s conscience. Among other stands, the company has called for the federal government to regulate face-recognition technology and warned in a blog post about the potential dangers of AI-powered technology, ranging from serious privacy invasions to suppression of free speech. Microsoft has also pushed for international pacts to limit the way in which the United States and other countries use cyberweapons.

But now Microsoft is trying to land a massive $10 billion U.S. Defense Department contract involving AI and cloud technologies — a contract so controversial that Google has declined to participate in the bidding after many of its employees voiced concern. Microsoft employees have asked the company to do the same, but the company has refused.

Is Microsoft putting its morals aside in order to try to land a lucrative contract? Or is it instead helping make the country militarily stronger and safer? It’s a tough call, but a deep look at the issue offers an answer.

First, let’s start with the contract itself. It’s for a program called JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure) that will develop a cloud-based infrastructure for employing data in warfare. Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said it will also include the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning for warfare, and added, “JEDI Cloud is an acquisition for foundational commercial cloud technologies that will enable warfighters to better execute a mission that is increasingly dependent on the exploitation of information.” Department of Defense Chief Management Officer John H. Gibson II offered a more blunt explanation: “We need to be very clear. This program is truly about increasing the lethality of our department.”

Amazon and IBM have joined Microsoft and others in pursuing the contract. Google was notable for its absence from the field. That came about after an uproar by its employees over a previous Defense Department contract. That one, called Project Maven, uses AI to interpret video information, and would be used to target drone strikes. Four thousand Google employees signed a petition demanding the company adopt “a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.” As a result, Google ended its participation in Project Maven. And when it came time to bid on JEDI, Google said it wouldn’t, in part because “we couldn’t be assured that [the JEDI deal] would align with our AI Principles.”

Microsoft employees, following the lead of Google’s workers, have tried to pressure Microsoft not to purse JEDI. In an open letter to Microsoft, the employees claimed that the contract is “shrouded in secrecy, which makes it nearly impossible to know what we as workers would be building. … Many Microsoft employees don’t believe that what we build should be used for waging war. 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.”