Video Interview: DAF’s Brig. Gen. John Olson Says Data is the Disruptive Element of the 21st Century

Operationalizing data and achieving AI/ML readiness are two of the Department of the Air Force’s most urgent “must-pay bills,” according to Brig. Gen. John Olson, DAF’s chief data and artificial intelligence officer.

Within DAF and across the entire Department of Defense enterprise, data centricity is the new “North Star.” Data — and the crucial insights gleaned from it — is now the key element guiding strategies, initiatives and action plans for the federal government as it pursues modernization and technological superiority.

Brig Gen Olson asserts that data is “the fuel that powers everything” and “the disruptive element of the 21st century.”

“Data is not the new oil, or the new gold — it’s far more precious than that. It’s like the new plutonium in that it needs to be processed and enriched, but it can power the future, it can power everything that we do,” he shared in a video interview with Executive Mosaic. 

The global race for data and AI leadership has already begun. The United States’ peer and near-peer adversaries understand the potential of data and AI/ML, and Olson noted that our competitors are making bold investments and aggressively pursuing technological advancements in these areas.

However, Olson posits that the U.S. can outpace adversaries by harnessing “the diversity and richness of the industrial base and the academic ecosystem” and leveraging the “innovative, entrepreneurial spirit of the American public” in a whole-of-nation approach.

Brig Gen Olson also shared an update on the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System now that the DOD’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control program has reached its initial implementation phase.

Watch the full video interview with the Department of the Air Force’s Brig. Gen. John Olson and see videos from our previous interview participants at

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