President Trump has designated his White House technology adviser to take up the influential post of chief technology officer (CTO) at the Pentagon, according to White House and Pentagon officials.
Michael J. Kratsios, who is currently serving as Mr. Trump’s senior policy adviser on technology, will be named acting undersecretary of defense for research and engineering on Monday, said officials familiar with the decision.
Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper sought out Mr. Kratsios for the post as someone with Silicon Valley experience. The Pentagon chief wants him to focus its advanced technology efforts on artificial intelligence, 5G telecommunications and other emerging defense-related know-how.
“In seeking to fill this position, we wanted someone with experience in identifying and developing new technologies and working closely with a wide range of industry partners,” Mr. Esper said. “We think Michael is the right person for this job, and we are excited to have him on the team.”
Mr. Kratsios will continue as both the Pentagon’s senior defense technology official as well as U.S. chief technology officer and deputy assistant to the president at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
As the Pentagon’s chief technology officer, Mr. Kratsios will oversee a budget of more than $106 billion annually for weapons design and development.
That work takes place at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Missile Defense Agency, the Defense Innovation Unit, the Space Development Agency and Defense Department laboratories.
The Pentagon is moving ahead in several key high-technology weapons development programs, including hypersonic missiles, artificial intelligence-powered weapons and quantum computing.
Mr. Kratsios will replace Michael Griffin who left the Pentagon July 1 to take a position in the private sector after a stormy tenure as a Pentagon CTO.
The new defense undersecretary post was created in 2018 after Congress split the role of undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and acquisition.
Larry Kudlow, director of the White House National Economic Council, praised Mr. Kratsios for his efforts to promote the administration’s 5G telecommunications policy.
“As CTO of the United States, Michael has been instrumental in the development and execution of our national 5G strategy,” Mr. Kudlow said. “He is a seasoned, highly knowledgeable, and effective leader who is deeply committed to ensuring American dominance in our most critical emerging technologies. The DoD and our nation are lucky to have him.”
At the White House, Mr. Kratsios led work on national strategies for artificial intelligence, 5G and quantum computing.
He was instrumental in designing the American AI Initiative, the National Quantum Coordination Office and recently the launch of the Covid-19 High Performance Computing Consortium.
An advocate for increased federal research and development funding, Mr. Kratsios was credited with helping double the federal non-defense AI and quantum funding.
Mr. Kratsios also has led U.S. delegations to international conferences like the G-7, G-20 and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
“He has spoken extensively on the need for U.S. leadership in AI and 5G as opposed to China and authoritarian countries,” said one official.
Jason Matheny, former director of the Intelligence Advanced Research Project Agency, said the appointment of Mr. Kratsios at the Pentagon is well deserved.
“Michael is one of the most talented public servants I’ve worked with,” said Mr. Matheny, currently director at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology.
“As chief technology officer of the United States, he’s been an advocate for U.S. investment in emerging technologies, engaging our agencies and the private sector, and working with our allies,” he added. “I’m confident he’ll be just as successful in the Pentagon, empowering the skilled team in R&E and building bridges with our Services, from the labs to the field.”