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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.

28 mins ago - World

Two years of COVID-19

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Axios Visuals

Two years ago Wednesday, the first case of a mysterious new respiratory disease was discovered in Wuhan, China. Now, the Omicron variant has deepened concerns about just how much longer the coronavirus pandemic will last.

The big picture: More than 5 million people have died since that first case. Most people on earth have lived through some form of lockdown. 54% of the global population has had at least one vaccination, though the shots have been distributed unevenly.

Updated 13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine

Conscripts line up at a Russian railway station yesterday before departing for Army service. Photo: Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" by new intelligence — detailed for Axios and other outlets — showing Russia stepping up preparations to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022.

Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.