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Defense Department Names New Chief AI Officer

Radha Plumb, deputy undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment, will replace Craig Martell in April.

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Radha Plumb attends briefing by leaders from the Defense Logistics Agency Distribution Headquarters in Virginia in 2023.
Radha Plumb attends briefing by leaders from the Defense Logistics Agency Distribution Headquarters in Virginia in 2023. Photo Credit: Defense Department

The Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office (CDAO) will have a new chief next month. The Defense Department announced that Radha Plumb will replace inaugural chief Craig Martell, who has held the position since 2022, in April as DOD’s chief digital and AI officer. Plumb is currently serving as the deputy secretary of Defense for acquistion and sustainment. Martell was appointed to the job by Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks in 2022 to develop a strategy for DOD, he said.

“It’s extremely important we get this right, and there aren’t a lot of folks with the intersection of AI and government background,” Martell said in 2022. “When the deputy secretary of defense calls you up and asks you to take this job, you have to think really hard about why you wouldn’t take this job.”

Plumb has worked to tackle pressing acquisition matters related to DOD, including building and maintaining a robust national security industrial base and supply chain, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said in an official statement.

As the inaugural chief digital and AI officer, Martell was tasked with increasing the adoption of data, analytics, digital solutions and AI functions to improve decision-making and communications between the Pentagon and military service members. Martell said that he has confidence that Plumb will continue the work he started.

“With the release of the Department’s Data, Analytics and AI Strategy in November 2023, the roadmap work that each of the CDAO directorates [were tasked] have been put in place,” Martell said. “Radha is no stranger to the ways of industry. She has been right alongside me for the past year at many key senior leader meetings and working groups, and she will seamlessly step into this role.”

Austin praised Martell’s work in the role over the two years that he led CDAO. He also emphasized that DOD stood up CDAO at a time when AI has become an integral part of the department’s work.

“Craig and the entire CDAO team had a monumental task of bringing together the diverse talents and cultures of four organizations to advance data, AI, and analytics for our national security, and deliver tangible results in a short time ,” Austin said. “Dr. Martell and the CDAO team have delivered on those goals and his work will have a lasting impact on how the Department approaches every data and AI driven task.” Plumb will assume the CDAO position effective on April 8.

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