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Interview with William E. Taylor

Program Executive Officer for Land Systems, U.S. Marine Corps

Looking back over the first five years of the United States Marine Corps Program Executive Officer for Land Systems, William E. “Bill” Taylor offered that it was “very appropriate and very prudent to look back and reflect on where we came from, where we are today, and how to best utilize any lessons learned in trying to map out a strategy for more efficient and effective operations downstream.”

“In summary, I think we are in ‘a very good place’ now,” he said, although quickly contrasting today’s assessment with the situation that existed when the office was initially created.

“It was almost humorous,” he recalled. “I think back more than five years ago when I came aboard as the PEO. I actually came aboard in January 2007 and it wasn’t until April that I actually got my first staff employee. So for a number of months I was ‘the PEO’ in every sense of that description. And not only did the PEO staff consist of ‘me, myself, and I,’ my very first meeting on my very first day as the PEO coincided with the Secretary of the Navy announcing the Nunn-McCurdy breach of our Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle [EFV] program. Quite a few folks in the room knew me from my previous days as the V-22 program manager so there were several looks in my direction at that point. In fact, one individual even offered a special ‘Welcome aboard, Bill,’ as an aside.

“So EFV was basically ‘on the rocks’ and just beginning the long journey through the Nunn-McCurdy process,” he continued. “Our CAC2S [Common Aviation Command Control System] and G/ATOR [Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar] programs were both struggling. The LVSR [Logistics Vehicle System Replacement] program was still in the middle of its development. The most healthy programs at that time were MTVR [Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement] and Lightweight 155 mm Howitzer, which were both in production and focused on trying to achieve their ultimate inventory objectives.”

According to Taylor, many of the program challenges at that time were exacerbated by resourcing issues.

“In my view none of the programs were adequately staffed,” he explained. “For example, we were sharing one contracting officer between three and four programs. Moreover, there was no linkage back then between our programs and Marine Corps Systems Command in terms of technical authority. So each individual program pretty much operated as its own independent entity, relying on itself with no other degree of independent thought, analysis, or support – just frightening programmatic times. And everyone was operating without a safety net, so to speak. That really was the picture of where we were five years ago.”

PEO LS Taylor

Bill Taylor, PEO LS, presents outgoing and retiring program manager Capt. Pat Costello with a Legion of Merit Citation for his successful tour of duty as program manager of the Common Aviation Command and Control System (CAC2S), in overseeing the first phase of CAC2S successfully fielded to the Marine operating forces at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Cherry Point, N.C. Photo by Kathy T. Reesey, Combat Camera Photographer, Combat Visual Information Center, Marine Corps Base Quantico

Shifting his assessment to the current situation surrounding PEO LS programs, Taylor added, “We are certainly operating under a competency alignment construct. We are inextricably linked at the hip with Marine Corps Systems Command. My program managers and I maintain program management authority and responsibility, but we are no longer in it alone. Through our competency alignment we are linked to Marine Corps Systems Command’s technical authority and we now have an infrastructure of support around the programs. And it is that partnership with Brig. Gen. Frank Kelley, commander, Marine Corps Systems Command, and the resulting organization that facilitates program success.”

Acknowledging that “there might be a few rubs here and there, and there might be a few people who chafe a bit under the oversight,” he offered a personal analogy. “When I was the V-22 program manager at NAVAIR, where they had been operating for the better part of two decades under competency alignment, I hated the help too. But now, looking back to the time when I first came to PEO Land Systems, I missed that support. Brig. Gen. Kelley and I both grew up in NAVAIR and we have ‘gotten there’ – we are in a good place as far as harmonized missions and roles and responsibilities between Marine Corps Systems Command and the PEO. We have now got adequate staffing on the programs with dedicated billets for each program. We’ve got teams of contracting officers supporting each program now. Now, I need to emphasize that these offices are not fat by any stretch of the imagination. But they are appropriately staffed. And being appropriately aligned and resourced means that we are operating more effectively than ever before.”

Contrasting today with the situation that existed five years ago, Taylor described “a paradigm or a culture back then where these program managers not only operated kind of on their own, but sometimes they didn’t realize or understand how bad they had it. I came aboard with big expectations, having come from NAVAIR where you had that infrastructure; you had that support of senior leadership; you brought program issues to their attention; and they helped you resolve them.

“But the culture here let program managers think they were on their own and had to solve their problems on their own. And that’s how they tended to do it. But today we go out there and ‘beat the drum.’ We get leadership’s involvement and engagement early on and, as a result, we have got programs that are more than adequately resourced – they are properly resourced,” he said.

Taylor reinforced his overall assessment with a programmatic review of PEO portfolio systems.

“For example, although EFV did not ultimately survive, I will defend the program in this regard: The program manager brought it back to a state of health to where technically and programmatically it was succeeding,” he began. “However, collectively, the enterprise – the Marine Corps, the Navy, and OSD – made a decision that the program was too costly. So it was terminated for affordability reasons. But the program manager had brought it back to a state of technical and programmatic health to where it was succeeding.

“Today, G/ATOR is executing superbly,” he continued. “And it has gone through quite a journey to get there. Back in 2009 it had ‘breached’ for cost and schedule issues. But at this point it has completed its journey back into line. It is adequately structured. It is appropriately costed and funded. It has been redesignated as an ACAT IC. And, lo and behold, it is so successful that Northrop Grumman is now turning over the prototypes for government testing [the prototypes entered government-led developmental tests on Aug. 20, 2012]. It’s on a great track towards success.

“CAC2S – talk about a success story! As a program manager I had made a career of trying to push my programs ‘over the finish line’ successfully. And when I first started out as the PEO, I was still in uniform on active duty. After standing up the PEO, I ultimately retired in June of 2008. And I really had struggles with my conscience over this, but my last official act ‘in uniform’ as PEO Land Systems was to walk into ASN(RDA) [Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition] and, with the support of the Marine Corps, recommended that they terminate the CAC2S program,” he said.

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...