In a letter, the workers referred to a blog post by Microsoft Azure corporate vice-president Julia White a few days prior to their post, saying it was a public declaration of the company's intention to bid for the Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure contract, which is worth US$10 billion over a decade.
Their appeal comes a few days after Google announced that it would not be bidding for the contract, because it was something that did not sit well with the company.
Microsoft cut a deal to supply cloud services to 17 intelligence agencies in May and its chances of winning the JEDI deal were said to have improved because of this.
The Microsoft employees pointed out that at an industry day for JEDI, the DoD chief management officer John Gibson had said, "We need to be very clear. This program is truly about increasing the lethality of our department.”
"Many Microsoft employees don’t believe that what we build should be used for waging war," the employees said. "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.
"For those who say that another company will simply pick up JEDI where Microsoft leaves it, we would ask workers at that company to do the same. A race to the bottom is not an ethical position. Like those who took action at Google, Salesforce, and Amazon, we ask all employees of tech companies to ask how your work will be used, where it will be applied, and act according to your principles."
In June, Microsoft employees protested against the company's deal with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the wake of the agency's separation of migrant children from their parents at the Mexico-US border.
The same month, Amazon employees wrote to their boss, Jeff Bezos, telling him not to sell the company's Rekognition facial recognition software to law enforcement agencies and to cancel a contract for hosting data-mining company Palantir on its cloud.
In May, a dozen Google employees quit the company to protest against its involvement in a Pentagon initiative named Project Maven where Google's AI technology was being used to improve targeting by drones.
Google later said that it would not renew the Maven contract, but gave no assurance that it would keep out of future similar projects.
The Microsoft employees urged the company not to enter into contracts in violation of their own published guidance on AI.
"Earlier this year Microsoft published 'The Future Computed', examining the applications and potential dangers of AI. It argues that strong ethical principles are necessary for the development of AI that will benefit people, and defines six core principles: fair, reliable and safe, private and secure, inclusive, transparent, and accountable," they said.
"With JEDI, Microsoft executives are on track to betray these principles in exchange for short-term profits."
They pointed out that despite the protests about the contract with ICE, Microsoft was continuing to provide services to the Immigration authorities. "Microsoft’s decision to pursue JEDI reiterates the need for clear ethical guidelines, accountability, transparency, and oversight," they added.