December 4, 2023

DOD Office Overseeing AI Strategy Plagued with Incompetence, Mismanagement

The workplace on the Pentagon tasked with overseeing its synthetic intelligence (AI) technique is so plagued with incompetence and mismanagement it has employed an outdoor consulting agency to assist determine the right way to repair it.

Earlier this 12 months, a federal office local weather survey showed that the workplace, often called the Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office (CDAO), ranked the bottom of all of the places of work within the Pentagon on “leadership” — scoring -17 on a scale of -100 to 100.

At a Pentagon briefing this month, Breitbart News asked Dr. Craig Martell, the chief of the CDAO, what steps have been taken for the reason that survey to enhance issues. Martell responded, “We hired an organization called Gapingvoid. They’re helping us think through and work through our department, and they’re doing surveys throughout the whole department.”

He added, “Gapingvoid is going through all of our leadership and all of the teams and figuring out where they feel things are frustrating, where they feel things are working, and then they work with us and the leadership teams to figure out the kinds of changes we can make to address those issues.”

However, 5 sources who wished to stay nameless advised Breitbart News that issues are nonetheless as unhealthy as ever for the reason that survey.

“There is still a gaping void and nothing’s changed,” one supply quipped.

Sources not too long ago advised Breitbart News that Martell admitted on a Zoom name with employees final week that he’s actively in search of a brand new job.

The sources mentioned Martell started the decision by insisting he was not in search of a brand new job, however then later talked about his transition plan, after which throughout a Q and A admitted he was already in critical sufficient talks with non-public corporations that he needed to seek the advice of the Pentagon’s ethics workplace to see if it created conflicts of curiosity with his present job. According to the sources, he reassured employees that it will take a 12 months earlier than something turned a actuality.

“Morale is so bad in his [organization] even he wants to quit,” a second supply mentioned.

Dr. Craig Martell, chief digital and artificial intelligence officer at the Defense Department, speaks during a hearing of the House Oversight Committee's Cybersecurity, Information Technology, and Government Innovation Subcommittee on Capitol Hill September 14, 2023, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Dr. Craig Martell, chief digital and synthetic intelligence officer on the Defense Department, speaks throughout a listening to of the House Oversight Committee’s Cybersecurity, Information Technology, and Government Innovation Subcommittee on Capitol Hill on September 14, 2023, in Washington, DC. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP by way of Getty Images)

Martell’s departure would comply with a string of exits from CDAO in latest months. Those who’re quickly departing or have departed in latest months embrace Joe Larson, CDAO’s deputy chief digital and AI officer for algorithmic warfare; Clark Cully, CDAO’s former head of coverage; Dan Folliard, CDAO’s former chief digital and AI officer at U.S. Special Operations Command; and Greg Little, CDAO’s former deputy for enterprise capabilities.

Sources mentioned extra senior-level workers need to depart. “They have either interviewed or been a part of group interviews to be able to move or leave from this organization,” the primary supply mentioned.

CDAO was introduced in December 2021 however formally established in June 2022. Its mission is to speed up the DOD’s adoption of synthetic intelligence, knowledge, analytics, and different rising applied sciences to offer warfighters a bonus over adversaries. It was additionally not too long ago put in control of implementing the Biden administration’s synthetic intelligence technique on the Pentagon, which is to additional integrate AI-enabled applied sciences all through the division.

The preliminary objective of CDAO was to consolidate and streamline the efforts of 4 separate initiatives on the Pentagon that had overlapping missions: the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), the Defense Digital Services (DDS), the workplace of the Chief Data Officer, and the Advana program.

However, a 3rd supply mentioned what resulted was a “pile of sh-t … with a blanket over it.”

Sources mentioned what initially started on the Pentagon in 2016 as “Project Maven” — a small and nimble synthetic intelligence initiative — has changed into a bloated bureaucratic mess and “complete and total disaster.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks has overseen CDAO’s institution, and sources mentioned she handpicked Martell, who came from Lyft, and his deputy Margaret “Margie” Palmieri, a civilian and “department insider” who has served in various completely different assignments for the U.S. Navy and within the Pentagon.

The sources mentioned Martell works remotely from the West Coast, regardless of CDAO being headquartered on the Pentagon — an association that has successfully left Palmieri in cost. The sources mentioned Palmieri is operating CDAO “into the ground.”

They mentioned Palmieri has introduced in a group of loyalists who’re unfamiliar with the problems, as a substitute of conducting an open hiring course of or selling from inside, and has micromanaged all personnel choices.

The first supply advised Breitbart News:

Our HR is simply completely horrible. They don’t reply to anybody except it’s Margie Palmieri. So Margie has direct management of who she hires. And she’s employed people on the GS-15 place. I refer it as a “friends and family” plan the place she takes care of people who she likes.

Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office

Margie Palmieri on the 2022 Atlantic Future Forum (AFF). (UKinUSA/Flickr)

The supply added, “She’s brought on her own team of folks who don’t know the issue sets and are causing complete disarray and consternation on key issues. … She’s created a small cabal of people who she trusts. And so, the 600 government employees that she’s hired — a total of 1,700 people when you add contractors — they’re frustrated with their leadership.”

According to sources, Palmieri introduced on two individuals who work in California and have “no situational awareness of what’s going on in D.C.”

“Because of that, they can’t do their job. One guy’s name is Mark Evans and the other person is Rafianne Doyle … they’re paying her almost $450,000 as a remote worker to fly in and out from California,” the supply mentioned. “So all that waste, fraud, and abuse, but they can’t pay for parking for people to park here in a building in Crystal City.”

Meanwhile, the second supply mentioned “numerous people” have been promised promotions or bonuses and by no means obtained them or they weren’t employed into the positions that they have been promised.

In addition, sources mentioned there are a lot of folks inside CDAO whose roles are unclear. “You’ve got probably a delta of 1,100 contractors and people don’t know what they do,” the primary supply mentioned.

CDAO staff are additionally unfold throughout three completely different buildings. “They can’t even seat everyone in one location,” the primary supply added.

This lack of path and cohesion has been exacerbated by the workplace’s lenient distant work coverage put into place throughout the COVID pandemic that’s nonetheless in impact, the sources mentioned. They mentioned some folks have even moved to completely different states.

One alleged senior teleworker is Sharothi Pikar, deputy CDAO for acquisition and acquisition government. The first supply mentioned she was so absent that Hicks needed to ask the Pentagon’s deputy under-secretary of protection for acquisition and sustainment to offer somebody to supervise CDAO contracts as a result of Pikar “is never at work and can’t functionally lead her people.”

The sources mentioned the Palmieri has additionally introduced in folks with conflicts of curiosity, pointing to a CDAO official named Dan Hake, whose spouse till a couple of month in the past labored for a decade at Palantir, a authorities contractor and competitor of corporations bidding for contracts for CDAO. She is now at Maxar Technologies, which, as one other authorities contractor may additionally pose a battle of curiosity.

A 3rd supply mentioned CDAO is losing cash on personnel and never spending sufficient on options for the warfighter.

“They’re wasting it. And they don’t have enough. They are reallocating resources for contracts that have already been instantiated. And they’re doing that with personnel that they have brought on board to serve their own personal interests, rather than those of the American people or taxpayer,” the third supply mentioned.

The supply cited Doyle and Evans’ alleged salaries, including, “You will pay half a million dollars to bring these people on and then divert those funds from other contracts where you had commercial entities that were deploying and delivering commercially available technologies that support a warfighter more rapidly than a government could possibly ever do.”

“And because you do that, you no longer have the capacity to deliver in a crisis or wartime environment, i.e. the Israeli threat. You don’t need a supplemental to be passed in order to do your job if you’ve actually been budgeting appropriately,” the supply added.

The sources mentioned it’s not simply morale and spending that’s struggling, however the Pentagon’s complete mission of attempting to remain forward of adversaries on synthetic intelligence.

“What’s at stake right now is not only not having the appropriate and correct professionals in place in order to beat China, but then you don’t have the necessary knowledge to not only field AI technology so you can get the feedback necessary in order to properly iterate, but then you don’t know how to accurately baseline that,” the primary supply mentioned.

“So if someone were to ask Martell, ‘How do you know we’re in front of China?’ Nothing he says could actually be factually accurate, because he’d have no indication or way to actually measure that,” the supply mentioned.

CDAO’s personal web site states that it’s “building a strong foundation for data, analytic, and AI-enabled capabilities to be developed and fielded at scale” and that “part of this foundation is ensuring the Department has the necessary people, platforms, and processes needed to continuously provide business leaders and warfighters with agile solutions.”

It additionally states that one in all its “critical functions” is to “provide a sophisticated cadre of technical experts that serve as a de facto data and digital response force able to address urgent crises and emerging challenges with state of the art digital solutions.”

However, in line with the sources, CDAO is failing at each.

The sources mentioned they imagine Hicks is unaware of all of the dysfunction at CDAO. She not too long ago personally introduced the Pentagon’s AI technique with fanfare earlier this month, which CDAO is in control of implementing.

“This is a priority deputy secretary of defense issue. She directly hired Martell and directly hired Margie. So this is her initiative, and she’s failing. And no one’s willing to tell the emperor that she has no clothes on,” the second supply mentioned.

Breitbart News reached out to the Pentagon for an announcement. A CDAO spokesperson responded with the next assertion:

A office tradition constructed on belief and transparency fosters innovation and progress and is vital for the success of CDAO. The office survey outcomes launched earlier this 12 months highlighted that we have now some work to do on this space.

“There is not a quick, one-quarter solution to this subject. Culture change takes time; we value our employees’ feedback and are taking meaningful strides to accelerate improvement across the CDAO,” the spokesperson added.

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