DOD looks at introducing a new AI and data leader

The new role would take oversight of the Joint AI Center, the office of the chief data officer and the Defense Digital Service.
Pentagon, Department of Defense, DOD, federal IT, cybersecurity, Washington, D.C.
The Air Force Memorial and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. (REUTERS / Joshua Roberts)

The Department of Defense is considering whether to introduce a new chief data and artificial intelligence officer to oversee the management of innovation- and data-focused offices.

The new role would take oversight of the Joint AI Center, the office of the chief data officer and the Defense Digital Service (DDS). The change would remove the offices from the remit of the deputy secretaries of defense, the CIO and secretary of defense. Following the introduction of the new position, the sub-agencies would instead report to one official.

The discussions are ongoing and no final decision has been made, according to two defense officials.

The JAIC was recently transferred from the CIO’s office to report directly to the deputy secretary in the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act to give it greater visibility and resources. The CDO stayed within the CIO’s office.


DDS reports directly to the secretary of defense and fashions itself as a “rebel alliance” by taking those in the private sector into the Pentagon for two year tours where they apply their expertise to data or technical problems.

Breaking Defense first reported the news.

Jim Mitre, an executive at data science firm Govini who worked on the National Defense Strategy, returned to the Pentagon today as part of this effort. A spokesperson for Govini confirmed his return to government.

The effort appears to be to streamline the reporting structure for offices that work on data, AI and tech innovation. The deputy secretary has been the primary official pushing new innovations like an innovation steering group and a fund that grants money to test innovations that advance strategic priorities. But the Pentagon’s No. 2 is responsible for a host of other priorities, like managing the workforce and personnel policy and preparing the DOD’s budget request.

The deputy secretary’s office did not return a request for comment and the DOD declined to comment.

This story was featured in FedScoop Special Report: Digital Transformation - A FedScoop Special Report

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