The Department of Defense announced today that the Pentagon has hired the head of machine learning at Lyft Inc. Craig Martell as the first-ever Director of Digital and Artificial Intelligence.
Martell will lead the DOD’s Chief Digital and AI Office, which was created in December to centralize oversight of its data and AI initiatives under one office at the Pentagon. As head of CADD, Martell will report directly to Under Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks.
CDAO was launched with limited operational capability in February and is expected to reach full operational capability by the end of June, FedScoop reported.
Martell previously held key positions in AI and machine learning at Dropbox Inc. and LinkedIn Corp. He also has previous U.S. military experience through his service as a tenured professor of computer science at the Naval Postgraduate School, where he specialized in natural language processing.
Hicks said artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies will be critical to providing the capabilities the DOD needs to address key challenges now and in the future. “With Craig’s appointment, we hope to see the department increase the speed at which we develop and advance in the field in AI, data analytics and machine learning technology,” she said. . “He brings industry-leading experience to apply to our unique set of missions.”
CDAO will oversee the Pentagon’s Defense Digital Service and Director of Data units, as well as the Joint AI Center, which has been transferred under its control from the Pentagon’s Chief Information Officer.
Martell will work alongside Margaret Pamieri, who was named the Pentagon’s deputy director of digital and artificial intelligence last month. Palmieri previously served as Special Assistant to the Vice Chief of Naval Operations and founded and led the Navy Digital Warfare Office.
CDAO will work alongside the Office of the Chief Information Officer within the Pentagon, in support of key DOD information technology and digital mission sets.
The outgoing CIO, John Sherman, had served as CDAO’s acting head since last February. He has previously says FedScoop that his role was to “raise the waterline” for AI and digital development in the various branches of the US military. The idea is to mine data from every department and perform high-speed analytics to help decision-makers ranging from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to soldiers in the midst of battle.