Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has announced the appointment of Air Force Lt. Gen. Mary O’Brien to be the next Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the J-6 Joint Staff and director for the J-6 command, control, communications, and computers/cyber, according to an April 5 Department of Defense (DoD) release.

The titles come with the lead role on DoD’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) data-sharing program. It’s not immediately clear what’s next for Lt. Gen. Dennis Crall, who currently holds those titles and has overseen the JADC2 implementation thus far.

O’Brien will take on the new role after serving as deputy chief of staff for Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Cyber Effects Operations since November 2019. She has also served as director of Intelligence for United States Cyber Command from 2015-17 while holding the rank of brigadier general.

In addition to an Air Force career that spans more than 20 years, O’Brien also completed a program in creating strategic value through IT at Northwestern University in 2017 and a cybersecurity policy and technology program at Harvard University in 2018, according to her Air Force biography.

JADC2 Program Implementation Plan Signed

While the DoD’s JADC2 program strategy was signed by Austin last year, the implementation plan for the strategy was officially signed just last month. Crall has said the strategy, “was the recognition that data and data-centricity was at the heart of success in our next war fight.”

“What the I-plan actually does for us, [is] it takes a look very clearly at specific and prioritized plans,” Crall said at a March 18 media brief. “You don’t always know what others are working on, so the I-plan captures that in its fullest. So, you can look across your lane of expertise, be informed by some of the other efforts and maybe that provides opportunity to come up with a better way.

“Not all overlap is bad, but if your Venn diagram has too much Venn in it, then you’re really wasting resources at that point. So increasing awareness with the I-plan is also a residual benefit,” he said.

“The other thing it does is allows us to look at these emerging technologies and figure out where they fit in the process,” he added. “Rather than simply focusing on what is directly in front of us, but anticipating that next need, anticipating the threat, and how we can leverage what may not even be available today to meet that landing spot when it does become available.”

The JADC2 I-plan is classified, but Crall said the front end will capture those plans, while the back end will remain electronic allowing for on-the-fly updates as DoD learns from its implementation.

O’Brien will look to pick up the work overseeing the development and beginning of the implementation process for the program. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and DoD did not respond to a request for comment on what her appointment means for Crall’s status.

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.