Pentagon wants to drive digital and AI onto the battlefield

Re-orgs bureaucracy to deliver 'stronger alignment and synchronization'


The USA's Department of Defense has created a post of Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Officer (CDAIO) that is expected to encompass three existing leadership offices and develop advanced fighting capabilities.

"The Department has made significant strides in unlocking the power of its data, harnessing artificial intelligence (AI), and providing digital solutions for the joint force," reads a DoD memo [PDF] released Wednesday by deputy defense secretary Kathleen Hicks.

"Yet stronger alignment and synchronization are needed to accelerate decision advantage and generate advanced capabilities for our warfighters," she added.

The newly created role will report directly to the deputy defense secretary and upward to the secretary of defense. The successful candidate will serve as the department's senior official responsible for the very things Hicks claimed the department had made strides in: strengthening and integrating data, AI and digital solutions.

The position effectively creates a new layer above the current Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), Defense Digital Service (DDS) and the Chief Data Office (CDO), which will report to the CDAIO instead of the secretary of defense.

"Rather than thinking about it as a management layer, we're thinking about it as a shift in organizational construct," a senior Defense official told defense-centric outlet Federal News Network. The official told reporters the current structure was inefficient due to a lack of integration between the entities mentioned above.

Senior advisor to the deputy secretary of defense James Mitre gets the lucky task of creating the plan to reach initial and full operation by January 15 of next year, with the goal of being fully operational by June 1, 2022.

No word was given on why the team was moving so fast, but the US government isn't the only organization making changes in its cyber digital and AI-related defense structure. Earlier this month, the head of the UK's secretive Military Intelligence Section 6 (MI6) agency, Richard Moore, gave a rare speech in which he said "the changing nature of the threats that we face requires a greater degree of openness from a modern intelligence agency."

Moore argued that the organization needs to seek more collaborations to keep up with security needs, thus upending MI6's secretive and mostly in-house culture. Moore also described threats from China, Russia and others, relying on digital and infosec tactics to further their influence. ®


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