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Industry Expert Craig Martell Tapped as New Pentagon AI Chief

The former Lyft and Dropbox machine learning executive will serve as DOD’s chief digital and artificial intelligence officer.

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Craig Martell headshot

The Defense Department has tapped Craig Martell to fill the new role it created to lead the agency’s artificial intelligence efforts, according to an April 25 memo.

As the chief digital and AI officer, Martell will serve as the agency’s top official who will oversee 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 has extensive expertise in AI and machine learning in prior roles — including head of machine learning at Lyft and Dropbox and other roles leading AI at LinkedIn, among others. Martell also focused on natural language processing while teaching computer science at the Naval Postgraduate School and Northeastern University.

“Advances in AI and machine learning are critical to delivering the capabilities we need to address key challenges both today and into the future,” Defense Deputy Secretary Hicks said in the memo. “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. He brings cutting-edge industry experience to apply to our unique mission set.”

The CDAO office, which was established in February, puts DOD one step closer to becoming more innovative by drawing on lessons learned and industry best practices that will lead to better alignment and synchronization.

Other AI-focused DOD units, including DOD’s CIO, Defense Digital Service and Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), all report to the CDAO as part of the an earlier realignment. The office is expected to be at full operating capability by this summer.

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