An acquisition officer’s ‘unconventional’ path

By May 28, 2014September 17th, 2018Faces of the Force, Talent Management
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Faces of the Force: Lt. Col. Mark Talbot


POSITION: Product Manager, Indirect Fire Protection Capability, Increment 2-Intercept
UNIT: Cruise Missile Defense Systems Project Office, Program Executive Office Missiles and Space, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama
AWARDS: Bronze Star, (2) Defense Meritorious Service Medals; (3) Army Meritorious Service Medals; Army Commendation Medal; Army Achievement Medal; Joint Service Achievement Medal
EDUCATION: : B.S. Environmental Engineering, U.S. Military Academy; M.S. Environmental Engineering, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
DEPLOYMENTS: 2009–2010 Baghdad, Iraq


By Sue Follett

Lt. Col. Mark Talbot joined the Army nearly 30 years ago “to be all I could be, as the slogan goes,” he said. In that time, he’s been many things including an instructor at Ranger School, the director of Acquisition Forward Operations in Baghdad, and the executive officer for the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisition Systems Management at the Pentagon. “I’m a pretty curious person, and my service has definitely suited my personality,” he said.

He’s been in his current role since July 2013, leading the effort to modernize the Army’s air defenses with Indirect Fire Protection Capability (IFPC), a ground-based weapon system that combines a range of capabilities to defend against unmanned aircraft and cruise missiles.

The road Talbot took to get to where he is today at Cruise Missile Defense Systems (CMDS) Project Office has been diverse; from teaching to overseeing foreign military sales, working in intelligence, this officer’s career has strayed from the “traditional path,” providing a series of unique and challenging experiences.


Lt. Col. Mark Talbot’s 27-year Army career has taken him to Iraq, London, the Pentagon, and Redstone Arsenal, where he serves as product manager for Indirect Fire Protection Capability, Increment 2-Intercept in the Cruise Missile Defense Systems Project Office. (U.S. Army photos courtesy of Program Executive Office Missiles and Space)

FOTF: What has your experience been like?

TALBOT: On March 24, CMDS obtained a Milestone A Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM), after working toward that goal for several months. We’re now moving forward with building the prototype of the system, and are planning an early launch demonstration in March 2015. In 27 months, we’ll go back for our Milestone B ADM, which will authorize continued engineering on the system, and 27 months after that is the target for obtaining the Milestone C ADM, which will clear the way for production.

Our goal is to have the system in the field by fourth quarter of fiscal year 2019. That’s an aggressive timeline for a new system, but we’re confident we can meet it, thanks to our acquisition strategy: working with Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center, the government’s organic industrial base, instead of working with an outside vendor.

FOTF: What’s surprised you about your work so far?

TALBOT: The level of review to obtain the ADM required a near constant presence at the Pentagon, but it was fascinating to meet all of the Army and OSD stakeholders and to learn from their experiences and perspective.

The Army has led the funding and leadership effort for this project but we’ve had a lot of interest from the joint community. The IFPC system will close critical capability gaps for the Navy and the Air Force, and they’ve been unexpected advocates in supporting our efforts to move forward with this project. Seeing the launcher come together is very rewarding.

FOTF: What has your Army career been like?

TALBOT: It’s definitely outside the bounds of the traditional path. I’ve taught at West Point, worked with the intelligence community at the National Reconnaissance Office, and oversaw foreign military sales while working on the staff of the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom. I worked on Maj. Gen. Ole Knudson’s staff and was deployed to Baghdad in 2009-2010 with Lt. Gen. Gustave Perna. During my deployment, we were drawing down forces in Iraq and moving equipment to Afghanistan. There were 55 PM shops in Iraq and billions of dollars in equipment that we identified and arranged to ship to Afghanistan. We did some exciting, interesting work there.


Talbot, an avid runner, took part in 50-plus races while deployed to Iraq in 2009-2010, including this 5K on Camp Victory.

FOTF: What lessons have you learned from your career?

TALBOT: I think the biggest lessons are those we learn in kindergarten: be honest, work hard and focus on the task at hand. One thing I’ve found is that the posts that take us away from the flagpole, without military oversight, often come with a lot of distractions. In those settings, it’s especially important to maintain focus on the mission and concentrate on core values — how we act when no one is watching over us.

That being said, I’ve found that the constant challenges imposed by new assignments are always invigorating. I draw my motivation from the strength and positive attitude of fellow Soldiers and Army civilians, and I will go to my grave proud of the time I have spent in uniform.


Talbot and Maj. Gen. Ole Knudson meet with representatives from the Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station team on Camp Victory in Baghdad in 2010.

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  • “Faces of the Force” is an online feature highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce. Produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication Division, and working closely with public affairs officers, Soldiers and Civilians currently serving in a variety of AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please contact 703-805-1006.