U.S. Central Command brought technology expert Michael Foster on board to serve as its chief data officer — one of the latest moves by Centcom to beef up its digital prowess and add tech talent to its workforce.
In his new role as CDO, Foster will “lead will lead data efforts across the organization’s headquarters, components, and subordinate units,” according to a press release.
He was tapped for the job in November, per the release.
Foster is a military and intelligence community veteran with a technical background. During his 11-year Air Force career as an Air Force officer, he served as a laser radar scientist with the Air Force Research Lab and branch chief and program manager for advanced payloads at the National Reconnaissance Office, among other positions, according to his LinkedIn profile.
He was also in the senior executive service at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. At NGA, he was co-director for commercial GEOINT activity, portfolio initiative lead for advanced analytics and “activity based intelligence,” and an image scientist in the analysis directorate.
In the private sector, he was director of GDBX solutions at DigitalGlobe, director of emergent solutions at Maxar Technologies, and most recently head of solutions engineering at CrowdAI.
He holds a Ph.D. in imaging science from the Rochester Institute for Technology and a bachelor’s degree in physics from the Air Force Academy.
“I am excited by the challenges of developing data-centric solutions to enable warfighting across the CENTCOM region,” Foster said in a statement.
Central Command is responsible for U.S. military operations in the Middle East region. The hiring of Foster reflects the combatant command’s desire to recruit tech experts, including from the private sector.
Earlier this year, it hired Andrew Moore — who previously worked as general manager for AI and industry solutions at Google Cloud — to serve as its first-ever advisor for artificial intelligence, robotics, cloud computing and data analytics.
“Our strategic approach … relies on bringing in the best talent from across the military and from civilian industry and then empowering that talent,” Centcom Commander Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla said in a statement. “Dr. Foster is a phenomenal talent with a rare set of skills in the employment of data to enable the warfighter. He will help us advance as a data-centric organization to enable our critical mission in the region.”
CTO Schuyler Moore has said that Centcom will serve as an AI integration test bed for the Department of Defense. It has already stood up three units — Task Force 59 under Naval Forces Central Command, Task Force 99 under Air Forces Central, and Task Force 39 under Army Central — to experiment with and deploy emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, unmanned systems, the cloud and data analytics.
“As an organization focused on digital modernization and data-centric operations, we are committed to leveraging our data more effectively and efficiently in support of our missions. Dr. Foster brings an impressive resume as a data leader at the U.S. Air Force, National Reconnaissance Office, and multiple cutting edge artificial intelligence and machine learning companies. We look forward to leveraging his exceptional capabilities to drive forward our digital initiatives,” Kurilla said.