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Bob Mortlock, PhD

Professor of Practice and Principal Investigator, Acquisition Research Program

Retired Army colonel Dr. Robert Mortlock is the Principal Investigator for the Acquisition Research Program (ARP) at NPS and professor of practice for defense acquisition and program management in the Department of Defense Management. He holds a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, a MBA from Webster University, a MS in national resource strategy from ICAF and a BS in chemical engineering from Lehigh University.

In the Army, Mortlock served as a program director, assistant product manager, product manager, and program manager for chemical & biological sensor, missile, air defense system, combat vehicle, uniform, helmets/body armor and parachute acquisition programs across five different program executive office portfolios, supporting the research, development, testing, production, procurement and sustainment of combat systems for warfighters. He is level III Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) certified in program management, test and evaluation, systems planning research development and engineering, and has earned professional certifications in engineering, project management and program management.

Mortlock is the Principal Investigator for the ARP that integrates education and research by awarding research grants, hosting the annual acquisition research symposium, and supporting both faculty and student research.  Mortlock’s research interests focus on defense acquisition and program management-related areas including technology management, program planning, cost estimating, financial management, contract management, system engineering, test & evaluation, data analysis, production and quality management, stakeholder management, strategic communication, and behavioral acquisition.

"The Acquisition Research Program is a national security asset. ARP provides an opportunity for NPS to leverage its center of gravity – the students – to allow them to apply the concepts they are learning to real challenges the Fleet is facing through innovation capstone projects."

What led you to the Naval Postgraduate School and what has been the most impactful moment(s) of your time on faculty here?

After my active-duty career, NPS offered an opportunity to teach what I did in the Army to the next generation of acquisition professionals. By far the most impactful moments include meeting these fantastic officers and DOD civilians and getting feedback from them that what we discussed in class, lab exercises and during case studies prepared them to better support the warfighters.

In what ways is NPS transforming its programs and curricula to address current and future national security challenges? How do these changes support NPS as a leader in professional military education across the Navy and the DOD?

The NPS transformation is focused on developing leaders who are critical thinkers, problem solvers, strategic resource managers, and informed decision makers.  Our programs and curricula focus on allowing students to apply those skills in experiential learning environments and in innovation capstone projects directly related to national security challenges in the larger Defense Acquisition ecosystem of delivering capability to the Fleet at the speed of relevance.

How does the NPS community of students, international partners and faculty – all with a wide array of backgrounds – enhance the capacity for NPS to deliver relevant warfighting solutions?

There is nothing more rewarding than walking into a class here at NPS where there are resident students representing all Services (Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Airforce, and Coast Guard) and our international partner nations. Even more exciting is also delivering that class in a hybrid mode joining distance learning (DL) students. My last class involved NPS resident students and DL students, experienced government civilians and deployed active-duty officers, from 10 different states and deployed to 5 different countries – all discussing the challenges of Defense Acquisition sciences and innovative solutions to better deliver warfighting capabilities. The diversity of thought among this diverse set of students is vital to the educational and learning experience.

The Acquisition Research Program (ARP) at NPS provides applied research in acquisition sciences, hones the professional education of the next generation of defense acquisition innovators, and forges connections with acquisition thought leaders.  Why is it important to have the ARP co-located with a defense research and education institution?  

ARP is a national security asset. ARP provides an opportunity for NPS to leverage its center of gravity – the students – to allow them to apply the concepts they are learning to real challenges the Fleet is facing through innovation capstone projects. ARP facilitates matching research topics important to senior leaders with students and then has these students present their innovative solutions to these complex problems at the annual Acquisition Research Symposium.  Having ARP here at NPS provides students access to the leading NPS faculty (scholars and researchers), and facilities.

How does project-based learning and research impact the acquisition process?

Student thesis research and capstone projects results must find a way to senior leaders and policy makers. Through the ARP database of research, called Defense Acquisition Innovation Repository (DAIR) [DAIR - Acquisition Research Program - Naval Postgraduate School (nps.edu)], and at the annual Acquisition Research Symposium, the ARP technical reports, papers and presentations, and projects are shared with senior leaders, who then can act in an informed way.

The Secretary of the Navy recently announced the development of the Naval Innovation Center at the Naval Postgraduate School. What capabilities will a facility like the Naval Innovation Center bring to acquisition research and the acquisition process?  

The NIC at NPS will allow students in ARP to join with students in other programs and curricula to study and research national security challenges in an interdisciplinary way at the speed of relevance, then refocus quickly to the next set of warfighting challenges. The NIC will bring together students, faculty, and industry subject matter experts studying the acquisition sciences with researchers in other STEM related focus areas – creating a true integrated product and process team, collaborative environment.  

Why is it important for NPS to collaborate, iterate and rapidly prototype alongside industry professionals? How does this collaboration enhance the NPS programs and curricula? How does it enhance the Acquisition Research Program?

Big “A” Defense acquisition involves a program manager balancing cost, schedule, performance, and risk within the Defense decision support processes of requirements, resource, technology, and management. Industry partners are important stakeholders because most acquisition programs use contracts in which companies in the Defense Industrial base apply their expertise to develop technologies and integrate warfighting solutions through prototyping and experiment. ARP allows commercial industry partners insights into warfighting challenges to focus future internal investment decisions and enables access to faculty and students to better understand those challenges.

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