WASHINGTON — A top-level office the Pentagon says will speed the adoption of artificial intelligence and data analytics across the defense ecosystem achieved full operating capability, right on schedule.

The Chief Digital and AI Office, or CDAO, reached full operations June 1, some six months after Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks announced it and laid out a timeline for ramping up. The office achieved initial operating capability at the start of February.

CDAO is billed as an overseer, an expeditor and an enabler of AI, subsuming what were the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, the Defense Digital Service, the Advana data-and-systems integration platform and the chief data officer.

The office will steer the Department of Defense’s strategy and policy development for AI, data and analytics, as well as flesh out infrastructure the department requires to take full advantage of critical technologies at a time of heated international competition.

“In CDAO, we have brought together data strategy and policy with hands-on implementation and the barrier-removal power of a [principal staff assistant] to apply lessons DoD has learned over the last several years and build upon them with greater scale and momentum,” Margaret Palmieri, the deputy chief digital and AI officer, said in a statement June 1.

A senior adviser to the Pentagon’s chief data officer told C4ISRNET earlier this year that the creation of CDAO instilled a feeling of opportunity among the workforce to align strategies, drive change across the department and embrace data analytics and AI.

Craig Martell, who previously led machine learning at ride-share company Lyft, was in late April named the chief digital and AI officer. Hicks at the time said Martell brings cutting-edge industry experience to apply to a unique set of problems and initiatives.

Martell has no previous Pentagon experience. The Defense Department looked both internally and externally to fill the role.

Other leaders were named Wednesday:

  • DCDAO for Acquisition – Sharothi Pikar
  • DCDAO for Policy, Strategy and Governance – Clark Cully
  • DCDAO for Enterprise Platforms and Business Optimization – Greg Little
  • DCDAO for Algorithmic Warfare – Joe Larson
  • DCDAO for Digital Services – Katie (Olson) Savage
  • Chief Operating Officer – Dan Folliard
  • Chief Technology Officer – Bill Streilein
  • Chief of AI Assurance – Jane Pinelis

Full administrative alignment of personnel and resources is expected in October. The office reports directly to the deputy defense secretary.

Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its NNSA — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.

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