Acquisition a ‘perfect fit’ for Army scientist

By April 5, 2018June 25th, 2018Army ALT Magazine, Faces of the Force
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COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Joint Product Manager for Chemical Defense Pharmaceuticals, Joint Project Manager for Medical Countermeasure Systems, Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense
POSITION AND OFFICIAL TITLE: Joint product manager
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in program management and science and technology management
EDUCATION: Ph.D. in behavioral and neural sciences, Rutgers University; B.A. in psychology and Distinguished Military Graduate, Coe College; Project Management Professional certification from the Project Management Institute
AWARDS: Army Medical Department “A” Proficiency Designator; Behavioral Sciences and Leadership Teaching Excellence Award; Order of Military Medical Merit; Meritorious Service Medal (seventh award); Army Commendation Medal (third award); Army Achievement Medal (second award); National Defense Service Medal (second award); Iraq Campaign Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Korean Defense Service Medal; Overseas Service Ribbon; Army Service Ribbon; Expert Field Medic Badge; Army Staff Identification Badge

By Ms. Susan Follett

As joint product manager for Chemical Defense Pharmaceuticals assigned to the Joint Project Manager for Medical Countermeasure Systems (JPM-MCS), Lt. Col. Matthew G. Clark leads a team of acquisition and technical experts to ensure that U.S. troops are protected from the effects of chemical, radiological and nuclear threats. He’s responsible for providing centralized research, development, acquisition management and joint service integration for countermeasure products transitioning from the technology base through full life cycle management once they’ve received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

A component of the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense (JPEO-CBD), JPM-MCS provides U.S. military forces and the nation with medical solutions to counter chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats, and facilitates acquisition of medical countermeasures and systems to enhance the nation’s biodefense capability.

“Most people don’t know that DOD engages in pharmaceutical development to protect service members,” he noted. “The capability is critical for the services, but it also serves the public: Most of the capabilities become a part of the Strategic National Stockpile that supports civilians and [responses to] other crises around the world.” The stockpile comes under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Then-Maj. Matthew G. Clark, left, and members of his FAST team at Camp Victory, Iraq, in July 2006: then-Maj. (now Lt. Col.) Richard Lonardo, civilian Noel Acevero and Staff Sgt. Jerry Johnson. (Photo courtesy of Lt. Col. Matthew G. Clark)

The biggest challenge Clark currently faces is accelerating development and delivery of autoinjectors that protect warfighters from chemical warfare agents. “Drug-device combination product development is inherently expensive, and it’s a long process because you have to develop a drug and engineer the right kind of device that can be reliably produced,” he said. “To be effective, you need to develop a resource-linked schedule and stick to it.”

In addition to developing that schedule, his team works to engage senior leadership to ensure that they remain focused on the program’s priorities. “Teams need to act tactically and think strategically to be successful,” he said. He also has increased the frequency of meetings with the FDA to help that agency understand the military context of products in development. “That has been one of our biggest accomplishments, and it has given us more flexibility in product development,” he said. “In one case, it helped us with significant cost avoidance while simultaneously enhancing readiness for service members.”

Clark has been in the Army for 26 years. He got his start in acquisition as a research psychologist at an Army medical lab, conducting bench work supporting JPEO-CBD. “When I started, I didn’t really know what acquisition was and couldn’t get a satisfactory explanation from anyone I asked,” he said. “So I took the acquisition training that was offered and realized that it’s a perfect fit for a military scientist. It’s a natural progression of how we can use our analytical and research skills to develop and field systems that help warfighters.”

He used those skills in the field in 2006, when he served on a Field Assistance in Science and Technology (FAST) team in Iraq. The team’s mission was to explore innovative ways to support combat operations through research, development and acquisition. His team was tasked with developing requirements for medical and nonmedical technology to counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs). At the time, IEDs restricted unarmored vehicles to forward operating bases, particularly in Iraq, which made casualty evacuation difficult.


Rep. Elijah Cummings and Clark in Cummings’ office in November 2010. (Photo by Jean Waskow, Office of Rep. Elijah Cummings)

“We needed a timely means of moving patients receiving en-route care by medics on medically equipped vehicles to enhance recovery and to reduce the potential for long-term disability—in short, an armored ambulance,” said Clark. However, demonstrating the need for the ambulance was complicated by several challenges. “One of the biggest issues was that no one understood how evacuation was actually taking place in combat,” he explained. Additionally, the data necessary to understand the issue was scattered across various places in theater, held by troops on the ground, specialized units and other sources.

Clark gathered and analyzed relevant data and worked with the team to write the urgent requirement request. After returning stateside in 2006, he worked with U.S. Central Command, the joint staff and the Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell to secure funding for 16 heavy armored ground ambulances (HAGAs), a variant that eventually transitioned into the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle system. He served as a subject matter expert in the design of the HAGA, and by 2008 nearly 700 armored ambulances were fielded through a combined effort involving Marine Corps Systems Command and the MRAP Joint Program Office. As a result of his success, he was assigned to work on rapid acquisition issues in the Asymmetric Warfare Office of the Army G-3/5/7, an unusual assignment for an Army research psychologist.

Not long after his deployment, Clark spent a year at the U.S. House of Representatives through the Army Congressional Orientation Program. Originally assigned as a military legislative assistant to Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., Clark also served as medical liaison, managing the health and military legislative portfolios. He prepared questions and background briefing materials, met with constituent groups to discuss foreign policy and veterans’ issues and advised Cummings on legislative developments in several policy areas.

“I learned so much from that assignment,” he said. “Having the chance to see ‘how the sausage gets made’ is invaluable,” Clark said. Members of Congress, he explained, “are in tune to their constituencies and how issues affect them.” To be effective on the Hill, “the Army needs to be able to articulate the impact of an issue or the value of a program for a particular constituency,” Clark said. “That same skill is needed to lead a program. And it’s also essential to know how programs are built, maintained and funded—the power of the purse.”

Clark is also a published author in leader development, behavioral neuroscience and psychology. “Writing is about personal development and perfecting your thinking and your craft while also giving back,” Clark said. “I’ve learned that to be effective, you must have a character-driven clarity of intent, which comes through writing. Serving with character should speak for itself. We are not always perfect, but we strive for it at all times.

“Faces of the Force” is an online series highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce through the power of individual stories. Profiles are produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication and Support Branch, working closely with public affairs officers to feature Soldiers and civilians serving in various AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please contact 703-664-5635.

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