Former Google emerging tech ‘evangelist’ joins AFRL as first CIO, director of digital capabilities directorate

As the Air Force Research Lab's first-ever chief information officer, Alexis Bonnell will be responsible for developing and executing an IT strategy for the organization.
Alexis Bonnell (LinkedIn profile photo)

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has tapped Alexis Bonnell, formerly of Google, as its inaugural chief information officer and director of its nascent Digital Capabilities Directorate.

“Supporting both the Air Force and Space Force missions at AFRL is an incredible honor,” Bonnell said in a release Thursday announcing her new roles. “I believe we are entering an ‘Exponential Age,’ where speed, adaptability, and curiosity will be the key tenets to maintain adversarial advantage. I’m excited to work with the amazing scientists, researchers, business and mission leaders at AFRL to leverage technology to rapidly augment our national security.”

As the laboratory’s first-ever CIO, Bonnell will be responsible for developing and executing an information technology strategy for AFRL. Her focus will be “catalyzing the discovery, development, and integration of warfighting technologies for air, space, and cyberspace forces via digital capabilities, IT infrastructure and technological innovation across the lab’s operations and culture,” according to her bio on the organization’s website.

She will also lead AFRL’s new Digital Capabilities Directorate — a virtual “labverse” aiming to streamline the laboratory’s modernization efforts and more quickly transition adoption-ready tech to warfighters. Stood up in March, the organization is looking to leverage techniques used by commercial companies to improve AFRL’s research and business operations.


Before joining AFRL, Bonnell was Google Public Sector’s emerging tech “evangelist,” according to the release. At Google, she helped the Defense Department and other federal agencies adopt new capabilities such as cloud, artificial intelligence and zero-trust cybersecurity strategies.

Prior to Google, she was the chief innovation officer at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), where she co-founded the agency’s innovation hub known as the Global Development Lab. She also has experience working in areas of armed conflict with the United Nations.

“[Bonnell] joins AFRL at a critical moment in time, as AFRL accelerates the generation and transition of cutting-edge technologies for our warfighters,” AFRL Commander Brig. Gen. Scott Cain said in a statement. “With her visionary leadership and deep understanding of technology and how it can be harnessed to achieve mission success, she is poised to strengthen the culture of innovation and lead AFRL into a new era of digital capability.”

Mikayla Easley

Written by Mikayla Easley

Mikayla Easley reports on the Pentagon’s acquisition and use of emerging technologies. Prior to joining DefenseScoop, she covered national security and the defense industry for National Defense Magazine. She received a BA in Russian language and literature from the University of Michigan and a MA in journalism from the University of Missouri. You can follow her on Twitter @MikaylaEasley

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