Kathleen Hicks: Deputy Secretary of Defense Wins 4th Wash100 Award

Kathleen Hicks wins Wash100 award

Dr. Kathleen Hicks is the Deputy Secretary of Defense for the Department of Defense. She is responsible for the department’s daily operations, such as managing the DoD budget and carrying out the missions of the Secretary of Defense. 


Kathleen Hicks is a four-time Wash100 Award winner, getting recognized consistently since 2021. Get to know more about her awards and contributions here.


Who is Kathleen Hicks?


Kathleen Hicks is an expert in civil-military relations, defense management, artificial intelligence, data, and digital solutions to counter advanced threats to U.S. national security.


Hicks has been the Deputy Secretary of Defense since February 2021. She is the first woman confirmed by the Senate for this role and the highest-ranking woman currently in the U.S. Department of Defense.


During the Obama administration, Kathleen Hicks served as the Principal Deputy under the Secretary of Defense for Policy. In this position, she advised the Secretary of Defense on global and regional defense policy and strategy. She played a pivotal role in developing the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance and the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review.


She holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an M.A. from the University of Maryland’s School of Public Affairs, and an A.B. from Mount Holyoke College.


List of Wash100 Awards won by Kathleen Hicks


Kathleen Hicks has been honored with the Wash100 award for four consecutive times. Here is a list of the awards she has received for her command of AI, government contracting, and emerging technologies. 




Kathleen Hicks supported nuclear modernization, weapons budgeting, and national security to create a proactive cybersecurity strategy. She emphasized the role of data in the Department of Defense’s operations by promoting new concepts like JADC2 for integrated battlefield networks. 


Moreover, Hicks oversaw the Pentagon’s technology reforms, modernization of warfighting systems to be data-centric, and reassessment of the previous administration’s budget proposal for 2022.


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In 2021, Kathleen Hicks focused on integrating artificial intelligence (AI) and data as key assets to enhance U.S. military capabilities and align them with the Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) strategy. 


She initiated the DOD AI and Data Acceleration initiative to push forward data and AI applications and support combatant commands’ foundational capabilities. The JADC2 strategy she reviewed focused on linking multiple data sensors and using AI to process data for quick decision-making on the battlefield. 


Hicks also visited New England to evaluate Department of Defense programs, including the USS Daniel Inouye at Bath Iron Works, the KC-46A Pegasus tanker at Pease Air National Guard, and a partnership between MIT’s AI Accelerator and the Air Force.


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In July 2022, Hicks and President Biden met with defense leaders to support semiconductor legislation. She announced a $1 billion DOD investment in bio-industrial manufacturing and energy innovation. 


In line with this investment, Kathleen Hicks tasked the Director of Administration and Management to lead digital modernization efforts of the Office of the Secretary of Defense in accordance with the CHIPS Plus Act.


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Dr. Kathleen Hicks was honored with the 2024 Wash100 Award for her leadership in adopting emerging technologies to enhance national security. This marks her fourth consecutive Wash100 Award, acknowledging her efforts to improve decision-making processes within the DOD through the use of artificial intelligence (AI), analytics, and data. 


Kathleen Hicks has championed the DOD’s initiatives, like the Replicator drone program and the adoption of AI and autonomous systems. She also participated in improving records management with new strategies and advancing microelectronics through the Microelectronics Commons program.


Kathleen Hicks Contributions


Her tenure as Deputy Secretary of Defense has included addressing the following issues: 


Sexual assault and harassment in the military


Kathleen Hicks tackled the issue of sexual assault and harassment within the military. She was involved in the Pentagon’s initiative to address the findings of a 90-day commission dedicated to investigating sexual assault and harassment in the Armed Forces. This initiative was officially unveiled during a Pentagon briefing on September 22, 2021. 


Kathleen Hicks saw the critical need for preventing sexual assault and harassment, marking it as a top priority for the Department of Defense. Throughout her tenure, Hicks has been committed to driving reforms and creating a military environment that is both safe and respectful to all its members.


Read more: Military Retention Rates: How to Increase the Numbers


Modernizing the Navy’s capabilities


Kathleen Hicks contributed to updating the Navy’s technology and strategies. During her confirmation, she showed interest in the previous administration’s shipbuilding plan, which focused on using more automated systems and spreading out forces. 


However, she mentioned that the plan needed further review to confirm the number of ships. She has been a part of the discussions on improving the Navy systems, including updating nuclear weapons, communication systems, and relevant industries. 


Hicks has stressed the need to innovate to stay ahead of China’s military growth and to strengthen America’s ability to produce and mobilize military resources.


Participating in the 9/11 attacks anniversary


Kathleen Hicks was at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, so she deeply understood how the attacks changed national security. Hicks took part in the ceremonies at the Pentagon to remember 9/11, showing her dedication to keeping the memory of that day and the people affected.

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Written by Skyler Bernards

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