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Chandra Donelson, Deputy Chief Data Officer, US Space Force and US Airforce

Describe your career to date

Ms. Chandra Donelson serves as the Acting Department of the Air Force Chief Data and Artificial Intelligence Officer. She develops and implements strategies for enterprise data management, analytics, digital transformation, and responsible/ethical artificial intelligence to optimize performance and drive innovation in and across all missions and operations.

Prior to this role, she served as the Space Data and Artificial Intelligence Officer, United States Space Force (USSF), the Pentagon, Arlington, Virginia. In this role, she is responsible for developing and enforcing the Service’s data, analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) strategy and governance policies, providing oversight for the Service’s data assets, improving data access and use, and fostering an agency wide data culture.

Ms. Donelson also previously served as the Army Intelligence Community (IC) Deputy Chief Data Officer (CDO) for the Headquarters Department of the Army (HQDA), Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (G-2) from 2021-2023, Pentagon, Arlington, VA. Ms. Donelson also served as the Army OSINT Data Manager for the HQDA G-2 from 2017-2021.

In these roles, she led the development of the first Army IC Data Strategy, the Army Data Literacy Program, the Army OSINT Reporting and Dissemination Standards, and the Army OSINT repository.

Additionally, she led coordination, synchronization, and integration efforts for the U.S. Army Commands (ACOMs), Army Services Component Commands (ASCCs), and Direct Reporting Units (DRU’s) making data readily available across eight domains.

Ms. Donelson’s intelligence expertise, knowledge, and passion for technology led to the development of a multi-domain information-sharing platform for the Army. She expanded the Army’s ability to share data with multi-national partners by leveraging her technological solutions to make intelligence reporting available to foreign partners.

Before moving into technology, Ms. Donelson founded a bridal store in Texas and enlisted in the United States Air Force, as an Intelligence Operations Specialist, initially in support of A-10 Close Air Support (CAS) missions at Barksdale AFB, LA. She then relocated to Little Rock, AR to support C-130 mobility operations. Ms. Donelson continues to serve in the United States Air Force Reserves; currently supporting CENTCOM J-2.

Ms. Donelson earned a BS in Business Administration from the University of Arkansas, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Management from Texas A&M University – Texarkana, a Master in Information Technology (IT) from Texas A&M University – Texarkana, and a Master in Data Science and Analytics in High-Performance Computing from the University of Missouri – Columbia. She is a native of Arkansas and currently resides in the National Capital Region (NCR) with her son.

Data literacy is a key enabler of the value and impact from data. How are you approaching this within your organization? 

Data literacy is undeniably a cornerstone for harnessing the true value and impact of data. Within our organization, we have established a multifaceted approach to foster data literacy, recognizing its pivotal role in our success.

  • Training and education: We place a significant emphasis on training and educating our employees at all levels. This includes workshops, courses, and seminars covering data analysis, interpretation, and visualization tools. We encourage our team to obtain relevant certifications and stay up-to-date with industry best practices.
  • Data culture: Building a data-driven culture is paramount. We have instilled the belief that data is a valuable asset that should inform decisions. We have created an environment where questions and decisions are backed by data, and where everyone feels confident in their data-related skills.
  • Data champions: Identifying and empowering data champions within the organization has proven effective. These individuals act as advocates for data literacy, spreading knowledge and encouraging their peers.
  • Feedback loops: We maintain feedback loops to evaluate the effectiveness of our data literacy initiatives. Regular assessments and surveys help us tailor our approach for continuous improvement.
  • Recognition and rewards: We recognize and reward those who excel in data literacy. This motivates our team to invest in their data skills.

Our organization understands that data literacy is not a one-time effort but an ongoing journey. By promoting education, building a data culture, and fostering collaboration, we are empowering our team to leverage data effectively, thus driving value and impact across the organization.

Have you set out a vision for data? if so, what is it aiming for and does it embrace the whole organization or just the data function? 

Our vision for data is to fully embrace your goal of integrating data across defense functions without barriers. Our aim is to make data a strategic asset that permeates the entire organization, ensuring that every aspect of our operations benefits from data-driven decision-making. It is not limited to the data function but extends to all functions within the organization. This vision is aligned with our objective to enhance coordination, situational awareness, and operational efficiency by seamlessly integrating data throughout the entire organization, ultimately contributing to our mission’s success.

Chandra Donelson
has been included in:
  • 100 Brands 2024 (USA)