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Mik Bodnar

'10 MAIR
International cooperation specialist
Defense Advanced Research (DARPA)

Mik Bodnar is an international cooperation specialist for The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an independent agency within the U.S. Department of Defense tasked with conducting research and development on behalf of the department. It was created in 1958 in response to the Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite. DARPA has since been at the forefront of creating technologies that will both deter and create strategic surprise. DARPA has been responsible for the foundational research that led to such technological innovations as the Internet, stealth weaponry, and unmanned vehicles. Bodnar has been working for DARPA for a little over three years now in multiple capacities, but mainly as a support staff member for the Director's Office. Since April 2014, Bodnar transitioned to the International Cooperation staff.

 

Bodnar's work in the International Cooperation office consists mainly of three tasks: protocol, travel building, and agreements coordination. DARPA is a unique government organization particularly because there is very little administrative overhead and its main focus is on each Program Manager (PM). Each PM comes to DARPA knowing they only have a three to four year window to initiate and develop a unique research idea that will have a major impact in the mid to distant future. PMs are then given a budget and a degree of independence to solicit both academic and industry "performers" to carry out the necessary tasks such as research, testing, etc. In the global economy of today, many of these performers are not just located in the United States, but sometimes located in the forefront of research in certain areas occurring well outside American borders and it is the IC office's job to make sure these PMs can cooperate with these institutions. Bodnar's responsibilities for protocol deals with finding, tracking, and corresponding with these foreign entities. In addition, foreign governments and military services have an interest in cooperating with DARPA on a strategic or specific program level, and ensuring these relationships is a part of protocol duties. His role in travel building entails assisting DARPA government staff with visits to foreign countries and working both with other DoD, the military services research branches, and foreign government embassies to target specific site visits that will benefit DARPA travel itineraries. Finally, agreements coordination entails Bodnar knowing what specific legal agreement mechanisms DARPA programs need to either utilize or construct in order to conduct work and research with a foreign entity.

 

One of Bodnar's biggest accomplishments, in his opinion, within his career occurred during the fall of 2010 when he had the opportunity to complete an internship with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) HQ international staff. As a member of the Operations Division, he completed daily intel briefings for NATO staff members regarding daily activity in NATO operational areas such as Afghanistan and Kosovo.

 

When asked if he had any advice to give to current Maxwell Students, Bodnar's response was, "Try not to be too focused on matching a future job with the specific area of study you have during undergraduate or master's studies. I had never thought of working within a science and technology realm, given that I had not taken any tertiary studies in that field. However, the defense field is widespread and offers people with a multitude of backgrounds the opportunity to support the national security apparatus in more than just the policy realm. While think tanks and academia are better suited for those students that want to take a more independent, research focused avenue, working within the Department of Defense offers the opportunity to see a tangible product of your work every day, which is a rewarding experience." Bodnar believes that Maxwell provided him with the perfect balance between academic discourse and professional skills development. His classes with Dr. Renee De Nevers were some of his favorite and provided him with an in depth introduction, not only to the U.S. and international security issues at the time, but on how different actors deal with those issues as well.

 

Bodnar obtained his bachelor's degree in international affairs and geography from the University of Mary Washington in 2009. In 2010, he received his master's degree in international relations from the Maxwell School.  He currently resides in Washington, DC.