New DOD Chief Digital and AI Office to start work by Feb. 1

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks signed the memo in December to establish the chief digital and AI officer. (U.S. Navy photo by Glenn Sircy)

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The Department of Defense’s new top artificial intelligence office will reach initial operational capability February 1, the Navy’s chief data officer said Wednesday.

The new chief digital and AI officer will oversee the DOD’s chief data officer, Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and Defense Digital Service and serve as an integrator for their efforts. Navy CDO Tom Sasala said that the new office will help the DOD push forward on data initiatives and be helpful to the work his team has been doing to bring data-based decision making to the Navy.

“I think that’s a really important component,” he said of the office during an webinar presented by C4ISRnet.

Sasala said he met Tuesday with DOD Chief Data Officer Dave Spirk and Jim Mitre, the official tasked with standing up the office, to offer specific recommendations on the new role.

The DOD has been shuffling its management of AI and emerging technology initiatives over the past few years. Most recently, the JAIC was moved to report directly to the deputy secretary of defense from the CIO’s office by the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. The CDAO role is being created to ensure AI and data initiatives receive more attention, given the vast portfolio of the department’s chief operating officer.

“The CDAO will serve as the Department’s senior official responsible for strengthening and integrating data, artificial intelligence, and digital solutions in the Department,” the memo creating the positions signed by the deputy secretary states.

The CDAO is expected to reach full operational capability by June 2022.

A DOD spokesperson said: “We are looking both internally and external to the Department and actively reviewing potential candidates to ensure we have the right person to drive the kind of progress we need.”

This story was updated to include comment from the Department of Defense.

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Chief digital and artificial intelligence officer, Dave Spirk, deputy secretary of defense, Tom Sasala
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