In recent months, the Department of Defense has placed greater emphasis and importance on artificial intelligence. The technology has been included on the White House’s critical and emerging technologies list, and the department in December created a new position meant to oversee artificial intelligence, digital-focused initiatives and data.
Now, with John Sherman’s confirmation as the Department of Defense’s chief information officer at the close of 2021, and his more recent appointment to the role of acting chief digital and AI officer in February, the intelligence community veteran has assumed responsibility for a number of AI-focused programs, initiatives and offices at the Pentagon.
Sherman, a 2022 Wash100 Award winner, now oversees the following key areas within the DOD:
Joint AI Center
The DoD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, established in 2018, aims to leverage AI in its mission to “safeguard American citizens, support our allies and partners, and improve the affordability and effectiveness of military operations.”
Among JAIC’s recent projects is the creation of an integration layer that will help accelerate the development of AI algorithms for combatant commands. Ltg. Michael Groen, director of JAIC and a Wash100 Award recipient, said the DOD needs a central platform for data feeds in order to speed the application generation process and better support rapid decision making capabilities.
In February, the U.S. Army Contracting Command awarded 79 companies positions on a blanket purchase agreement to support the ethical, responsible development of AI systems. Awarded on behalf of JAIC, the BPA will set test and evaluation standards as well as best practices for automated testing of AI-enabled systems.
Defense Digital Service
Described by Sherman as the DOD’s “digital fire brigade,” the Defense Digital Service is a team of engineers, data scientists and software developers from government and industry that seek to rapidly improve technology across the department.
DDS in December played a vital role in the department’s pursuit of tracking down Log4j cyber vulnerabilities. The service leveraged its bug bounty competition to identify the vulnerabilities on public-facing military websites, The Record reported.
Chief Data Officer
The Office of the Chief Data Officer, occupied by Wash100 Award winner David Spirk, is also being rolled under the responsibility of John Sherman as CDAO.
Since his appointment to chief data officer in June 2020, Spirk has spearheaded initiatives to update the DoD’s data policies, implement new standards and streamline data access in alignment with the department’s overarching mission to become more data-centric.
Spirk said he has plans to optimize information sharing in military operations through expanded partnerships with U.S. allies and allied organizations.
Released in 2020, the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification framework is comprised of cybersecurity requirements and protection standards to safeguard the defense industrial base from cyberattacks and bolster national security.
In November 2021, the second iteration of the CMMC was published, updating the program to respond to increasingly complex and severe cyber threats.
Sherman said CMMC 2.0 could help raise the “waterline” of the Defense Department’s cybersecurity defenses. The DOD CIO plans to more closely engage with small and mid-sized businesses and clarify requirements in an effort to strengthen the CMMC program.
Additionally, the CMMC’s realignment under the CIO office is expected to increase the program’s integration with other cybersecurity programs across the department.
Under dedicated governance, the above programs and offices are expected to work more collaboratively to deliver synchronized AI capabilities and systems to the Defense Department.
“Look at it as a continuum, an ecosystem, all the way from data discovery and collection through how we’re going to store, curate, make sense of that data, unlock that data, and then to run advanced analytics,” Sherman said of the realignment.
John Sherman is slated to keynote the Potomac Officers Club’s 3rd Annual CIO Summit on April 26. Sherman will join a roster of prominent CIOs from vital government agencies, who will gather to share their innovative insights and discuss the challenges, priorities, initiatives and technologies that drive their organizations.
Register now for the CIO Summit!