The Antitrust Threat to National Security

By Jon Bateman, Wall Street Journal

Forty-six state attorneys general have joined Letitia James, their New York counterpart, in an antitrust investigation of Facebook. Every presidential candidate in last week’s Democratic debate agreed that big tech companies have grown too powerful and must be humbled or diminished, if not broken up entirely. This idea has gained popularity across the political spectrum, with two-thirds of Americans now saying they would break up Big Tech. Although still a long shot, the breakup campaign has spawned dozens of antitrust probes against Amazon, Apple and Google as well as Facebook. And it has started a long-overdue debate about Silicon Valley’s sweeping influence.

But there are dangers in restructuring any U.S. industry. One of the most serious remains largely unrecognized: national-security risk. Despite their faults, tech companies contribute directly to American military and intelligence operations. Their titanic scale can itself be an asset. Any responsible antitrust debate must address the national security risks of breaking up Big Tech—and the parallel risks of keeping these companies intact.

Consider cloud computing. The Defense Department is planning a massive global cloud called JEDI. Unlike corporate clouds, the “war cloud” must support life-or-death missions on austere battlefields despite virtual or physical onslaughts. The Pentagon found only two eligible bidders: Amazon and Microsoft. Three defense secretaries, a federal judge and the Government Accountability Office have upheld this bidding process.

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