FROM INFANTRY TO ACQUISITION

By June 9, 2020June 10th, 2020Faces of the Force
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COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors (PEO IEW&S), Project Manager Intel Systems & Analytics
TITLE: Product manager
ACQUISITION CAREER FIELD: 51A
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 11 years
YEARS OF MILITARY SERVICE: 21 years
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in program management and Level II in test and evaluation
EDUCATION: M.S. in management, Austin Peay State University; B.A. in law, Rowan University
AWARDS: Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal
HOMETOWN: Hamilton, New Jersey


 

COL. MATTHEW C. PAUL

 

by Ellen Summey

Lt. Col. Matthew Paul had a lot of fun as an infantry officer. “I grew up as an infantryman, riding around in Bradley Fighting Vehicles, blowing stuff up,” he said. He served on deployments as a platoon leader and company commander in Iraq and had a lot of positive experiences. “I learned a lot about the Army and about leadership and people and myself,” he said. In 2008, though, he was ready for a change. So he decided to join the Army Acquisition Corps (AAC). But right off the bat, things were not what he expected.

When he arrived for the transition course in Huntsville, Alabama, he thought it was going to be a “gentleman’s course,” with plenty of time to go to the gym or play softball on the weekends. “It was anything but that,” he laughed. “That was an eye opener.” As it turns out, this acquisition stuff is really hard. “It was like drinking from a fire hose, with so many different components—contracting, testing, program management,” he said. “How do you align your funding, which is a calendar-driven process, to your acquisition timeline, and then time that to the actual need? Keeping those three things in alignment is very difficult.”

And Paul’s line of work is about as complex as it gets. As the product manager for Intel Systems & Analytics (formerly Product Manager Distributed Common Ground System – Army), within the Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors (PEO IEW&S), today he is responsible for the Army’s flagship intelligence information system. “It connects hundreds of data sources and provides more than 100 tools to thousands of intelligence Soldiers across multiple echelons and across 35 military occupational specialties,” he said. In this role, he oversees the current capabilities and also works to posture the program for the future—a future that happens to include two new-start programs, Intel Apps and the Tactical Intelligence Targeting Access Node (TITAN).

New starts bring their own unique challenges, but Paul has the experience to chart the programs’ success. In his very first acquisition job, he learned some important lessons about the opposite end of the program life cycle. Or as he said, “I got to see what a program looks like as it’s falling off the cliff.” He was at Future Combat Systems, which is now seen as a textbook example of acquisition failure. “I came in at the very tail end,” he said. “I got some good insights as to why and how it happened and I’ve been careful to apply those lessons to my subsequent assignments.”

From there, he was an assistant program manager (APM) at PEO IEW&S. In that role, he was responsible for several small programs, involving mostly intelligence sensors. “The benefit of being an APM, being responsible for lots of small programs, is that I got to do a lot of things myself,” Paul said. He had a small team and low overhead, but the programs were still responsible for all the same types tasks as the larger programs. “Writing and staffing documents, doing contracting work myself,” he said. “I learned a lot.” Those first four years earned him a lot of experience in what he calls “tactical acquisition.”

Next, Paul spent two years as a Department of the Army systems coordinator, supporting the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology (ASA(ALT)). In that role, “I learned all about money and how the process works,” he said. Afterward, he returned to tactical acquisition at U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, where he worked with unmanned aerial vehicles, including the MQ-1C Gray Eagle, and operational testing on the Gray Eagle Extended Range.

Suffice it to say, he’s seen a lot. “I believe that, at this point in my career, my role is to not only produce for the Army Acquisition Corps, but to develop the next generation of acquisition leaders,” Paul said. “My focus is to create an environment where my people can learn, grow and not be afraid to make mistakes.”

He feels that acquisition is very different than life in company command, and he believes the key to success is teamwork and knowledge sharing. “No single acquisition professional can understand all the complexities surrounding a particular acquisition challenge,” he said. No matter how much you have seen or experienced, “My advice has always been to listen before you talk, and to try to lead with questions. Collaborate and ask questions.”

When asked the most important lesson he had learned in acquisition, he didn’t hesitate. “Risk management is program management,” Paul said. “Good program managers think critically about their projects and can try to predict what can go wrong, but that’s not enough.” A program manager should also identify and implement mitigation plans as well.

In the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, of course, risk management and mitigation are front and center. “Right now, my biggest challenge is just trying to adapt to this new world—the new normal,” he said. “Every day presents a unique challenge and we are learning constantly.” Paul said he is working hard to communicate goals and priorities to the team, making sure that everyone is on the same page. “Unfortunately, that can create a bit of over-communication because we don’t want to leave people out,” he said. That means a lot of virtual meetings and a high volume of e-mails—a scenario familiar to many.

But through it all, he has no professional regrets. “I have always sought out tough assignments and my career decisions have led me here,” he said. “I am honored to be a product manager for one of the most critical programs in the Army.”



“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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