Nand Mulchandani steps down as Joint Artificial Intelligence Center CTO

The acting director of the Department of Defense Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, Nand Mulchandani, briefs reporters about DoD's recent initiatives with artificial intelligence, the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., July 8, 2020. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

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Nand Mulchandani announced Thursday he has stepped down from his role as chief technology officer of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center.

William Streilein, a staff member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory, has joined the JAIC to fill Mulchandani’s vacancy.

A Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur, Mulchandani took the CTO role in June 2019, about a year after the JAIC was created. He also served as interim director after Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, the JAIC’s first leader, left the team in mid-2020.

“Nand Mulchandani has been an extraordinary patriot, technologist and friend. As a serial-entrepreneur, his expertise in systems implementation and application brought a welcome set of perspectives and connections that have really accelerated the department’s efforts,” Lt. Gen. Michael Groen, director of the JAIC, said in a statement. “His passion for technology, industry understanding, and business acumen helped to mature the JAIC from a nascent organization to one that supported COVID response, wildfire suppression, autonomy platforms and a wide range of capabilities. Nand is a true patriot, stepping in to join the JAIC with a focus on ‘giving back’ to our warriors.”

During his time at the JAIC, Mulchandani also played a part in scaling the JAIC from a small office in the Pentagon to a larger organization, now under the leadership of the Department of Defense’s newly installed chief digital and AI officer. 

“I’m glad to see the ‘startup’ JAIC transformed into the CDAO, which is part of the normal journey for any great technology organization, and happy that the Department is starting to embrace the power of technology to transform the way it operates and to retain our competitive edge,” Mulchandani wrote on LinkedIn. “While there is no question we have some big challenges ahead of us, I don’t think we have ‘lost’ the race to peer competitors.”

In his leadership roles at the JAIC, Mulchandani spoke frequently about injecting responsibility and ethics into AI, the importance of public-private partnerships in developing AI and how critical the technology will be to the future of combat.

Mulchandani is leaving the door open for a possible return to public service later down the road, he said. “There is a strong chance that I might pop back up in another part of the US Government focused on national security and technology, and hope to share that news soon. Given everything going on in the world today and where things are headed, I don’t want to be sitting this one out.”

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Department of Defense (DOD), Jack Shanahan, Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), Nand Mulchandani
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