WASHINGTON — Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said she has high hopes for the Pentagon’s new all-things-digital office and will rely on it for some of the military’s most challenging projects, including Joint All-Domain Command and Control.

The Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office, fully operational this month, needs to produce results and be seen as a “go-to place for talent and technical expertise,” Hicks said June 8 at the Department of Defense’s virtual Digital and AI Symposium.

“What we want to be able to do is make sure we are leveraging the state of the art in order to increase accuracy, increase speed of decision making, increase the quality of our ability to deliver effect,” she said.

JADC2 is the Pentagon’s vision for rapid response and seamless information sharing across land, air, sea, cyber and space. It relies on artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge systems to provide an advantage over a technologically savvy opponent.

“What I will say is that we have to be able to deliver,” Hicks said. “We have to advance, and advance quickly, on the challenge set that the warfighter faces.”

The CDAO will play a key role in making JADC2 a reality, according to John Sherman, who helped flesh out the office and serves as the Pentagon’s chief information officer.

The office was established to improve all things AI, data and analytics across the Defense Department. It subsumed the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, the Defense Digital Service, the Advana platform and the chief data officer role.

Craig Martell, the former head of LyftML, ride-hailing company Lyft’s machine-learning division, serves as the chief digital and AI officer. He described at a separate symposium panel the experience so far as “a fire hose.”

“Apart from being really overwhelming, it’s been extremely exciting,” he said. “The constituent teams that make up CDAO have really great missions. They are delivering, they are executing, they are bringing real value to the DoD.”

Other CDAO executives were named June 1, coinciding with the office’s operational milestone. Full administrative alignment of personnel and resources is expected in October.

Providing the CDAO some breathing room as it comes into its own and grapples with its workload is important, Hicks said.

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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