Pentagon hires Lyft machine learning expert Craig Martell as its first chief digital and AI officer

Pentagon hires Lyft machine learning expert Craig Martell as its first chief digital and AI officer

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The Department of Defense today announced that the Pentagon has hired Lyft Inc. head of machine learning Craig Martell as its first-ever chief digital and artificial intelligence officer.

Martell will head up the DOD’s Chief Digital and AI Office, which was created in December in order to centralize oversight of its data and AI initiatives under a single office in the Pentagon. As the person in charge of the CDAO, Martell will report directly to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks.

The CDAO launched with limited operational capability in February and is expected to achieve full operational capability by the end of June, FedScoop reported.

Martell had previously held key AI and machine learning roles at Dropbox Inc. and LinkedIn Corp. He also has prior U.S. military experience thanks to his service as a tenured computer science professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, where he specialized in natural language processing.

Hicks said AI and machine learning technologies will be critical to delivering the capabilities the DOD needs to address key challenges, both now and in the future. “With Craig’s appointment, we hope to see the department increase the speed at which we develop and field advances in AI, data analytics, and machine-learning technology,” she said. “He brings cutting-edge industry experience to apply to our unique mission set.”

The CDAO will oversee the Pentagon’s Defense Digital Service and chief data officer units, as well as the Joint AI Center, which has been transferred to its control from the Pentagon’s chief information officer.

Martell will work alongside Margaret Pamieri, who was last month named as the Pentagon’s deputy chief digital and artificial intelligence officer. Palmieri previously served as a special assistant to the vice chief of naval operations and founded and directed the Navy Digital Warfare Office.

The CDAO will work alongside the office of the chief information officer within the Pentagon, in support of the DOD’s core information technology and digital mission sets.

Incumbent CIO John Sherman had been serving as interim head of the CDAO since last February. He previously told FedScoop that its role was to “raise the waterline” for AI and digital development across the various branches of the U.S. military. The idea is to tap each department’s data and perform high-speed analytics to aid decision makers ranging from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to soldiers in the midst of battle.

Photo: LinkedIn

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