CLEAR LINES OF COMMUNICATION

By January 26, 2021Faces of the Force
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COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Defensive Cyber Operations, Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems
TITLE: Project manager
ACQUISITION CAREER FIELD: Program management
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 12
MILITARY OR CIVILIAN: Military
YEARS OF MILITARY SERVICE: 24
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in program management, Level I in information technology and in engineering
EDUCATION: MBA, George Washington University; Master of Strategic Studies, U.S. Army War College; Master of Public Administration, Strayer University; B.S. in environmental engineering, U.S. Military Academy at West Point
AWARDS: Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal (2nd award), Meritorious Service Medal (4th award), Army Commendation Medal (4th award), Army Achievement Medal (3rd award), Senior Army Aviator Badge, Army Basic Space Badge, Air Assault Badge, Army Parachutist Badge, Netherlands Parachutist Wings, and Army Staff Identification Badge
HOMETOWN: Altoona, Pennsylvania

 


 

Col. Mark R. Taylor

 

by Ellen Summey

Teenagers are notorious for making bad decisions. Until the frontal lobe of the brain reaches full maturity, in a person’s mid- to late 20s, humans are prone to making impulsive choices, taking unnecessary risks and being particularly susceptible to peer pressure. So if, hypothetically, you were a teenage boy and your friend jumped off the roof of your house, splashing impressively into the swimming pool below, you might decide to follow suit. And if you misjudged the angle, you might fracture your neck in two places when you hit the water. And if you were worried about your parents’ reaction, you might not mention that bit about the roof. You were just playing Marco Polo, after all. Hypothetically, of course. Not that Col. Mark Taylor knows anything about that. “My version of pre-Airborne school training, I guess,” he joked. He’s still thanking his very non-hypothetical lucky stars.

Thankfully, he had no lasting physical effects from the mishap, and would later be fully cleared to attend the U.S Military Academy at West Point and eventually to become a Black Hawk pilot. But he did learn an important lesson. While he was still in 10th grade, recovering from his lapse of judg injuries and sporting a full halo brace,  Taylor’s parents got wind of the real story from another parent. When confronted with the truth, “I crumbled like a stale cracker,” he said. “I like to say, that was the last time I lied to my parents.” That importance of integrity and clear communication stuck with him, and he has prioritized those values throughout his career.

Today, Taylor is the project manager (PM) for Defensive Cyber Operations (DCO) at the Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS). “I am responsible for the delivery of innovative hardware and software defensive cyber solutions to defend the U.S. Army networks around the world,” he said. Specifically, DCO protects against and responds to irregular network activity caused by cyber threats. Because of the time-sensitive and critical nature of its work, DCO is also the only Army program participating in a new DOD Budget Activity 08 (BA-08) software and digital technology pilot program for the 2021 fiscal year. BA-08 is a new pilot funding mechanism that allows the program to spend its funding for research, development, testing, procurement or operations and maintenance purposes. It aims to help program managers push capabilities through the acquisition process without artificial delays because of not having the right “color of money” (appropriation type).

“Many people are surprised at how quickly the environment changes in the cyber domain. In order to stay relevant, we need to be able to rapidly move through the acquisition process, to get the most advanced capabilities into our cyber warriors’ hands quickly,” Taylor said. “Acquisition can move quickly if all the stakeholders [i.e. PMs, users, contracting officers, testers, etc.] are aligned and focused on the mission at hand.” Fortunately, he has the experience to support that effort. Before his arrival at PEO EIS, he served as the acting director of investments in the Army Budget Office (ABO), where he was responsible for the budgeting and execution of the Army’s $34 billion research and development and procurement portfolio. “That experience in the Pentagon and the ABO helps inform how we execute our participation in the software pilot—now, I often look at things from a financial perspective, first.”

When he gives advice to junior acquisition personnel, however, it often involves the lesson he first learned as a teen. “Integrity is number one and communication is crucial,” he said. “In acquisition, we have to make every effort to make sure stakeholders are on the same sheet of music.” It makes sense for a former Black Hawk pilot to place a high value on communication—in the cockpit, after all, communication issues can be catastrophic. No matter the rank or position of the crew members on board, each has a vital part to play and they all must ensure communication is clear.

Never was this more evident to Taylor than when he served as company commander for Alpha Company, 12th Aviation Battalion at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. “Miscommunication can be deadly,” he said. “In the aviation community, we made a conscious effort to make sure the enlisted members knew they could speak to the pilots openly, because you don’t want any of that hesitation about ‘I don’t want to get yelled at for bringing that up.’ Translating this to acquisition, which is a totally different workforce, we have to understand that everybody’s opinion and knowledge has a role to play in accomplishing your mission. Your status should never mean that you can’t have a good opinion that should be listened to.”

“As an Army acquisition officer, there is no better feeling than having a capability that we helped to develop, produce and field make the critical difference on the 21st century battlefield for our joint warfighters. Nothing beats working with our industry partners and teammates throughout the joint force to put the most technologically advanced tools in the hands of the warfighters to keep our nation safe.”

Ultimately, Taylor said that Army acquisition is a team sport and he’s fortunate to be a member. But he also encourages others to look at industry partners as teammates, too. “Wherever we are in the Army, we are all trying to accomplish the same mission—to keep our nation safe—and our industry partners are trying to accomplish that same goal.”

From helicopters to budgets, to advanced cyber technology, Taylor sees the value in teamwork and communication. “Even with the most complex and technical projects, this is still a human endeavor.”

 


 

“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 go to https://asc.army.mil/web/publications/army-alt-submissions/.

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