WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s chief information officer will also serve as the head of a new organization overseeing the Defense Department’s various digital and artificial intelligence efforts, the department announced Feb. 2.
DoD Chief Information Officer John Sherman will serve as the acting chief digital and artificial intelligence officer, or CDAO, a newly created office designed to oversee the Defense Digital Service, the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and the CIO office he was already leading. The new office was established to better align a number of data, analytics, digital solutions and AI efforts across the DoD. Previously, all three of those offices reported directly to the deputy defense secretary.
Sherman will serve as DoD CIO and CDAO as the Pentagon continues to look for a director.
“I’m honored to be able to help get this organization stood up, again, while performing my chief information officer duties and also serving as the acting CDAO,” Sherman said. “In addition to getting CDAO up and ready for [full operational capability], rest assured we’ll remain laser focused on our CIO duties of cybersecurity, digital modernization, C3 [command, control and communication], and other areas that the department relies on.”
Sherman has a long history working on national security and information issues. After serving a three-year stint as the chief information officer of the intelligence community, Sherman joined the DoD as the principal deputy chief information officer. Just over a year ago, he was named acting chief information officer by the incoming Biden administration.
The CDAO was established Dec. 8 and achieved initial operating capability Feb. 1, the Pentagon noted. Full operating capability is expected by June 1, and the Pentagon wants a leader selected for the position by then. Once that is accomplished, the Pentagon will submit proposals to Congress to adjust authorities and reporting lines accordingly. The department expects about 200-300 people to be combined under the new office with an approximately $500 million budget.
The Pentagon also issued a memo clarifying how the new CDAO position differs from other high-level positions within the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
For example, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering will lead data, analytics and Al policy related to basic research through prototyping, while the CDAO will carry those efforts from prototyping to operations. The CIO will continue to lead on core infrastructure — such as cybersecurity, cloud, data transport and networks — while the CDAO will set requirements for that core infrastructure and provide policy and guidance for the data, analytics and AI that interact with it.
Nathan Strout is the staff editor at C4ISRNET where he covers the intelligence community.