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U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios. Photo: Henrique Casinhas/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

United States Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios will serve as acting undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, the Department of Defense announced today.

The big picture: In his acting role, Kratsios, a Silicon Valley alum who was formerly chief of staff for investor Peter Thiel, will take on new responsibilities at the DOD while keeping his gig at the White House, where he has overseen efforts on quantum computing, artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles.

The move was first reported by Reuters.

Between the lines: Kratsios has been a key tech point person in a White House that has had an erratic relationship with Silicon Valley. The tech industry has notched wins on taxes, deregulation and, at times, favorable treatment in trade conflicts. But it's also faced threats from the Trump administration on issues including antitrust, alleged conservative bias and content liability.

  • The Pentagon and tech have had their issues in the Trump era, with lucrative defense contracts going to some major tech firms as others vacillate on performing such work over policy objections.

What they're saying: "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," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a statement. "We think Michael is the right person for this job and we are excited to have him on the team."

Go deeper

Oct 12, 2020 - Technology

White House pushes Pentagon to jumpstart a national 5G network

Verizon upgrades a cell tower near Orem, Utah for 5G service. Photo: George Fret/AFP via Getty Images

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is leaning on the Pentagon to move ahead with a plan to stand up a 5G wireless network, sources tell Axios, and the idea, despite opposition from key government and private-sector players, could well outlive the Trump administration.

Why it matters: The Department of Defense could lease out capacity to wireless carriers and other companies in need of the ubiquitous, high-speed connectivity that 5G technology promises. That prospect makes this the Trump administration's most serious push toward a federally backed national 5G network since it first floated the idea in 2018.

USAID chief tests positive for coronavirus

An Air Force cargo jet delivers USAID supplies to Russia earlier this year. Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development informed senior staff Wednesday he has tested positive for coronavirus, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Barsa, who staffers say rarely wears a mask in their office, is the latest in a series of senior administration officials to contract the virus. His positive diagnosis comes amid broader turmoil at the agency following the election.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
3 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.