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The Pentagon's new AI chief is a former Lyft executive

Martell is a partial outsider. While he directed the Naval Postgraduate School's AI-driven Natural Language Processing Lab for 11 years, he hasn't served in military leadership. Outside of Lyft, he's best-known for heading up AI work at Dropbox and LinkedIn. As CDAO, Martell said he expected to spend to spend the first three to six months identifying "marquee customers" and the systems his office will need to improve. He'll have a $600 million budget for fiscal 2023.

The office itself was only created months earlier, though. Martell also told Breaking Defense he believed someone with his private background could be "very agile" in a way an established military leader might not. The Defense Department "really needs" someone who can quickly shift strategies in AI and analytics, the new CDAO said.

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