Air Force welcomes first chief experience officer

Colt Whittall will be the Air Force's first chief experience officer, a role he fills after decades in the private sector.
(Getty Images)

The Air Force welcomed its first chief experience officer, Colt Whittall, to help move toward a “digital Air Force” and enhance the way airmen interact with everything from data to weapons.

Whittall’s hire comes as the Air Force transitions to its Enterprise IT-as-a-Service approach, “where the USAF leverages industry to transform IT service delivery to enhance Airmen’s user experience,” according to the service. It’s an initiative he will help push by examining service members’ experience with the new structure of enterprise IT.

Whittall started work in late June and came from a long career in the private sector working in customer experience and angel investing. He’ll serve as part of the service’s Office of the Deputy Chief Information Officer.

Bill Marion, the Air Force’s acting CIO, described Whittall as a “phenomenal leader in this field.” Whittall will focus on three areas: education and training, user experience in acquisitions, and how members of the Air Force work with data as the military pilots artificial intelligence. Working to enhance the user experience will help widen the Air Force’s focus from just looking at its technology’s capabilities to also examining how service members interact with their tools.


Adding a position to focus on the experience of being in the Air Force has “been on the minds of a lot of senior leaders,” Marion said. He hopes Whittall will help the Air Force figure out the right way to innovate and find good tools to use to further its mission.

Whittall’s private sector history will help him bring a fresh perspective to the military, Marion said. Layers of forms, old acquisition processes and often outdated technology block an efficient experience for members of the Air Force — layers the private sector has often innovated away from.

Whittall will have some “supporting cast,” but his hire won’t start a major shift in personnel structure. Instead, he will network with a group of people already in the information and IT sector to further his user experience push.

Whittall was not available for comment.

Editor’s Note: July 4, 2019 — This story was updated with the Air Force’s definition of its EITaaS program. 

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