Americas, Military, National Governments

Mark Handley, PE, senior vice president of Federal Programs and a retired Rear Admiral from the U.S. Navy, was recently elected to serve as the National President of the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME). Mark has actively participated in the Society for more than 25 years, volunteering in multiple national, regional, and Post positions, and was inducted into the organization’s prestigious Academy of Fellows in 2017. He leads AECOM’s federal strategy as part of the National Governments team in the Americas. Prior to joining the civilian workforce, he enjoyed a 32-year career with the U.S. Navy. He served during both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Prior to his retirement from the U.S. Navy, he commanded the First Naval Construction Division (Seabees). Other senior assignments include Vice Commander, Navy Installations Command; Director of Shore Readiness for the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (logistics); and Commanding Officer, NAVFAC Mid-Atlantic.

“On behalf of SAME, I am thrilled to welcome Rear Adm. Mark Handley, PE, F.SAME, USN (Ret.) as the Society’s 102nd National President,” said SAME Executive Director Brig. Gen. Joseph Schroedel, PE, F.SAME, USA (Ret.). “Mark has been a leader throughout his career, with the U.S. Navy, in private industry, and in SAME. Foremost, he inspires others to action by his example and hands-on engagement, from working personally with Society leaders and stakeholders, to improving how we operate to deliver value to our members. Mark has made significant impacts in the years leading up to our Centennial, but his commitment now to strengthening our industry-government engagement efforts will make a tremendous difference for our nation, our profession and SAME.”

We sat down with Mark to talk about SAME, AECOM’s infrastructure work in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense and federal agencies, and his vision moving forward.

You have been a member of SAME both during your service in the Navy and your tenure in the A/E industry. What are the benefits for other colleagues to get involved? In 1995, when I was a junior officer in the Navy, the senior officers encouraged me to join SAME. I initially joined for the social aspect, but was quickly drawn to the extensive opportunities for training, education, and professional growth through conferences, networking events, strategic partnerships, webinars, technical publications, and leadership development. As an officer in the Navy, I found SAME to be a great platform for industry-government engagement. For me, it provided a tremendous opportunity to interact with the private industry and to learn while in uniform. SAME provided a pathway for technical and professional development for myself and many of my fellow service members.

When I transitioned from military service to private industry, I stayed active in SAME. Drawing upon my previous knowledge and experience in the Navy, I found a space to provide feedback to government agencies about the challenges military engineers are facing today. I’m proud that AECOM is such a strong partner with SAME and I appreciate that our leadership team is so supportive of the time I spend volunteering with the Society. The work we are doing is critical for the future of national defense and the engagement we foster between industry and government is invaluable.

Adm. Handley addresses the questions and concerns of Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalions in January 2011. Photo Credit: US Navy, MC3 Ernesto Hernandez Fonte

What projects have you found most rewarding, both in the Navy and at AECOM? As the Head of Environmental Contracts at the Western Division of NAVFAC in 1990, I had the opportunity to work with professionals in the industry as we executed the first Comprehensive Long-Term Environmental Action Navy (CLEAN) contracts for the Navy. Interestingly, one of the first three CLEAN contracts was with URS, which is now part of AECOM. AECOM’s CLEAN team is light years ahead—in terms of technical expertise and innovation—from where we started the program. These contracts, the first of their kind, have now become the gold standard in environmental contracting.

With AECOM, I am incredibly proud to have worked on the Guantanamo Bay Energy Savings Performance Contract. Our team partnered with Siemens Government Technologies to provide energy-saving upgrades to key systems on the remote, isolated Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as part of the largest-ever Department of Defense island installation program, which is directly improving resiliency and mission readiness in the region. The energy savings achieved each year will be large enough to pay for the capital investments in equipment and technology, bringing stability and reliability to power generation, transmission, and distribution across the island.

Infrastructure is a hot topic. Can you give us some insight into the importance of AECOM’s infrastructure work in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense and other federal agencies? At AECOM and throughout our industry, there is a strong focus on improving our infrastructure. While the current stimulus initiatives in Congress have been rightfully focused on the economic benefits of enhancing our infrastructure, there is a national security component as well that includes improving our military airfields, ports and installations to safeguard our nation’s defensive capability. For example, AECOM is currently supporting the Navy’s planning efforts to upgrade four major shipyards under their ship maintenance program. This planning work will optimize the Navy’s $20 billion investment and improve readiness, which ties directly to AECOM’s company-wide commitment to environmental, social, and governance priorities, as well as SAME’s mission to support military engineers and strengthen national security.

What are you most excited about achieving as SAME President? As SAME National President, I am most excited about service and giving back to the Society. My top initiative this year is a continued emphasis on industry-government engagement through thought leadership. SAME has more than 27,000 members and I look forward to bringing the best in industry and government to supporting our military engineers through collaborative engagement. With issues such as the Great Power Competition, project delivery reform and an infrastructure bill, now is the time to increase SAME’s focus and support on key issues affecting the broad military engineering community; expand the platforms in which SAME influencers can discuss and promote thought leadership; and continue developing relationships with strategic partners to raise SAME’s involvement in key A/E/C issues.

Through the equity, diversity, and inclusion (ED&I) programs at AECOM, I have gained a strong appreciation of the impact of this renewed focus on very tangible initiatives, which also align with DOD values. In connection with SAME’s large membership base, I am making ED&I a priority. Just as the industry and our federal partners focus on ED&I, so must the Society. We will develop a SAME National Action Plan to increase awareness across the Society and make near-term progress to achieve balanced representation of leadership at every level. We are committed to broadening our diversity of thought and inspiring members from various backgrounds to help lead our Society into the future.

I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to bring a wide range of AECOM’s capabilities to help address key issues and continue supporting the military engineer community. As a SAME member since 1995, I consider it an honor to support our military engineers.

Banner image: Norfolk Naval Shipyard Photo credit: Courtesy of the U.S. Navy. Photo by Ernest R Scott.

Originally published Aug 26, 2021

Author: Mark Handley