• Security Cooperation – A Case Study

    Members of the CSTC-A NET team receive U.S. M224 60 mm mortar systems at Kabul, Afghanistan. The last 92 weapon systems were delivered to Afghanistan in Sept. 2013, two months ahead of schedule. (Photos courtesy of Program Executive Office Ammunition)


    By Lt. Col. Will McDonough, Robert Ucci, Bill Webber and Ted Greiner


    As defense budgets and military force structure are reduced, the United States must once again examine ways to maintain our defense industrial base. While budgets may not allow for the procurement of new weapons for our own military at the rate many would like, there can be no question that we need to maintain the ability to ramp up for a future conflict at a time and a place that may be totally unpredictable.

    One very valuable tool for maintaining our domestic industrial base is to promote the sale of our defense materiel to friendly nations who may very well be allies in the next conflict. On Jan. 3, 2012, the NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan requested the establishment of a foreign military sales case for 890 M224 60 mm mortar systems for the Afghan National Army (ANA). As is often the case, this initial requirement was later increased to include more weapons (up to a total of 918) and more accessories, support equipment and spare parts than originally requested. To put this in perspective, this represents a quantity that is more than half the total number of 60 mm mortar systems in the entire U.S. Army [inventory]. The team led by the product manager (PdM) for Precision Guided Munitions and Mortar Systems (GPM2S) not only delivered all required weapon systems ahead of schedule, but also $11 million under budget. The last 92 weapon systems were delivered to Afghanistan in Sept. 2013, two months ahead of schedule.

    Upon program initiation, PdM GPM2S formed an integrated product team (IPT) consisting of representatives from the Watervliet Arsenal, N.Y. (WVA), Anniston Army Depot, Ala. (ANAD), the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), the Tank and Automotive Command (TACOM)’s Product Support Integration Directorate (PSID) and Security Assistance Management Directorate (SAMD), the Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCoE) at Fort Benning, Ga., the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC), the deputy secretary of the army for defense exports and cooperation (DASA-DEC), and the Office of the U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8.

    CSTC-A, composed of a mix of active-duty and former Soldiers, and all graduates of the Army’s Infantry Mortar Leader Course, conducts U.S. 60mm mortar training with ANA soldiers, allowing them to train their own soldiers in the proficient use of the weapons.

    The majority of the team members were already familiar with each others’ roles and capabilities because of the normal interaction required to support Army and USMC units that were deployed, or preparing to deploy to combat operations. The long-standing relationships formed through personal interactions at program management reviews (PMRs) enabled the rapid formation of a high-performing team without the traditional forming, storming, and norming phases of team development. While every organization performed a unique and invaluable role, the leadership role of the PdM as individually responsible for program execution, granted by his charter as a life-cycle manager, ensured the unity and focus of the entire effort.

    In his Feb. 12, 2013 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama emphasized the strategic importance of transitioning the United States’ role in Afghanistan from leading the fight to equipping and training Afghan security forces to take the lead. He stated, “Beyond 2014, America’s commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change. We are negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions: training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip into chaos, and counter-terrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of al Qaeda and their affiliates.” This address served to strengthen the team’s commitment to success.

    This national-level emphasis on program success also allowed for creative, non-traditional solutions to providing weapon systems at an unusually high rate. For example, the Department of the Army allowed the diversion of Army-owned assets to this FMS case to fill immediate needs, with Army stocks to be replenished from new production using FMS case funding. Not only did this unusual step improve our responsiveness, it also provided the added benefit of updating the Army inventory with all new items.

    The ANA learns how to operate the U.S. 60mm mortars during a training exercise.

    Another contributor to the success of this program was the USMC. Over the past several years, the Army and Marines have cooperatively developed, qualified, and fielded a newer and lighter 60 mm mortar system, the M224A1. The Marines have been aggressively replacing their M224 systems with M224A1s, thus freeing up M224s for demilitarization. In large part as a result of the good will built up during years of interservice cooperation, the Marines allowed this excess inventory to be overhauled and sold, rather that demilitarized and scrapped, resulting in a very substantial cost savings.

    The dedication of the workforce at WVA, New York, and at ANAD was also key to program success. WVA provided for new production of many components, as well as expertise in assembling kits, and staging and shipping systems into theater. ANAD was responsible for overhauling many of the weapons. Their tireless commitment to quality ensured the safety of the weapons and provided an added benefit of minimizing schedule risk due to unnecessary scrap and rework.

    “The team led by the product manager (PdM) for Precision Guided Munitions and Mortar Systems (GPM2S) not only delivered all required weapon systems ahead of schedule, but also $11 million under budget.”

    TACOM PSID played a key role in providing both new and used Army assets for the effort, purchasing new components using existing sustainment contracts, coordinating with the DLA for acquisition of DLA-managed items, and providing direct oversight and management of ANAD depot efforts.

    The final enabler to program success was the PM’s ability to leverage a new equipment training (NET) team that was already in theater. This NET team, from Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan (CSTC-A), was composed of a mix of active-duty and former Soldiers, all graduates of the Army’s Infantry Mortar Leader Course (IMLC). They were indispensible in writing the doctrine and tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) that the ANA would use in both training and in combat. After that, these military and civilian professionals actually trained their ANA counterparts to the highest standards to allow them to train their own soldiers in the proficient use of the weapons. If the team had not already been stood up and in theater, additional time and expense would have been incurred to form and deploy the necessary capability.

    CSTC-A, composed of a mix of active-duty and former Soldiers, and all graduates of the Army’s Infantry Mortar Leader Course, conducts U.S. 60mm mortar training with ANA soldiers, allowing them to train their own soldiers in the proficient use of the weapons.

    As is always the case with any successful program, the ANA 60 mm mortars case was the result of a very strong team effort. The lesson to be learned is that the strongest teams are the ones who are already used to working together. PdM GPM2S has had a history of cooperation with the USMC, MCoE, TACOM, WVA and ANAD to provide world-class equipment, training, and support to Soldiers and Marines. As the Army’s Product Manager for Mortar Systems, PM GPM2S was uniquely qualified and positioned to respond to the urgency and need for providing mortar systems to the ANA. The product manager immediately stood up an IPT of mortar system professionals with defined roles and responsibilities. Daily meetings were established and a management tool referred to as “the dashboard” chart was created to capture and present the key events and weekly accomplishments. The dashboard chart was also used as a communication medium to keep Army leaders closely informed of critical program milestones and weekly achievements.

    Despite times of constrained resources and reduced travel budgets, true team building requires at least some face-to-face contact to foster trust and communication. For example, members of the IPT from PM GPM2S and TACOM-Warren travelled to ANAD, a key location in the process, to ensure the urgency of the mission was well understood, along with establishing the process map for refurbishment and shipping. In addition, periodic face-to-face meetings are also required after the team is formed and working to ensure that project status is tracked accurately and that priorities are properly communicated.

    A specific lesson for time-sensitive cases is the existence of the Special Defense Acquisition Fund (SDAF). This is a revolving fund administered by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) that may not be familiar to many program managers. Authorized in 1981, it was specifically created to allow for the acquisition of defense articles and services in anticipation of a future FMS sale. Tapping into this fund allowed PdM GPM2S to order some long-lead items early, thereby shaving approximately one month from the program schedule.

    Finally, PdM GPM2S learned the value of indefinite delivery / indefinite quantity (ID/IQ) contracts in responding rapidly to a surge in requirements. PdM GPM2S’ parent organization, Project Manager Combat Ammunition Systems (PM CAS) maintains numerous ID/IQ contracts for artillery and mortar munitions, both at the subcomponent level and for the load, assemble, and pack (LAP) of all-up rounds. Once established, these contracts allow for the rapid procurement of parts, projectiles or cartridges from any one of several qualified suppliers to meet surge demands. Traditionally, the procurement of major weapon systems have been focused on meeting U.S. requirements only and therefore have not required this flexibility and responsiveness.

    The Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) and Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution System (PPBES) processes normally provide PMs with years to decide on a contracting strategy, build the required procurement packages, and perform competitive selections. If a PM wants to be able to respond quickly to future foreign demands, they must have more foresight and be willing to put in the extra work up front to ensure that more flexible and responsive contract vehicles are available to them when needed.

    As the nation winds down from the latter of two large conflicts, our need to procure large numbers of weapons will taper off. This may lead to a risk of losing valuable parts of our military industrial base. At the same time, however, many of our potential allies now recognize more than ever that the United States has the best-equipped Army in the world. As a result, they would now like to equip their own forces with weapon systems that are as safe, effective and reliable as ours. This situation offers up the opportunity to supplement domestic weapons procurement with foreign sales to maintain our own ability to respond to future conflicts. Wherever possible, PMs should prepare in advance to respond to security cooperation and security assistance cases with high-quality, timely, and cost-effective support so that we are the supplier of choice.

    Read more »
  • Faces of the Force

    Template for Faces of the Force

    Project officer manages ‘everything explosive’


    By Teresa Mikulsky Purcell


    Project Officer Patrick Scheerer’s job is a blast—literally. One of the projects he manages, the Anti-Personnel Obstacle Breaching System (APOBS), was originally designed to allow Soldiers to conduct safe breaching through enemy antipersonnel minefields and multistrand wire obstacles, and later repurposed to defeat improvised explosive devices. All of that makes APOBS a popular tool with Soldiers and other warfighters in Afghanistan. But the program, as Scheerer explains below, ran into a something of a minefield of its own that caused an APOBS shortage—a key subcontractor didn’t have the right permits for making explosive devices at its location. According to Scheerer’s chief of staff, Mr. Chris J. Grassano, Scheerer “quickly addressed issues with the APOBS technical data package and contractor explosive safety site plan (ESSP). His adept handling of the ESSP issue involved coordinating the activities and generating consensus across the integrated product team, including the Defense Contract Management Agency, Army Contracting Command – Rock Island Contracting Center, United States Marine Corps, Navy, APOBS prime contractor and a critical supplier. Because of his leadership and persistence, the prime contractor recently completed first article testing and is on track to deliver production hardware to the depot by May 2013.”

    FOTF: What do you do for the Army and why is it important?

    SCHEERER: Basically, I manage “everything explosive” having to do with the acquisition of demolition munition systems that help keep Soldiers and warfighters across all the services safe in the field. Some of the munitions are used to clear a safe path through minefields and complex wire obstacles. Others are used for unique military applications, such as cratering charges that quickly excavate a foxhole, ordnance disposal tools that disarm all sorts of explosive hazards and underwater tubular demolition charges that clear underwater obstacles. Ultimately, what I do is important because I supply warfighters with the ammunition they need to conduct their missions effectively and as safely as possible.

    FOTF: What has your experience been like? What has surprised you the most?

    SCHEERER: I entered government service shortly after 9/11, so through my whole career the Army has been involved in active conflicts, which has imparted a sense of urgency to most of my experiences. If I don’t deliver these demolition munitions systems, Soldiers’ lives are at risk. That urgency forced me to quickly master the acquisition process so that I could contribute to solving critical problems. That has been stressful at times, but I believe I am a better employee because of it. What surprises me most on a consistent basis is the resourcefulness and persistence of Soldiers and the Army civilians supporting them. For as many times as seemingly insurmountable issues have arisen, we find solutions, no matter the problem.

    FOTF: Can you give an example of one of these impossible challenges?

    SCHEERER: We had a showstopper with a subcontractor on the Anti-Personnel Obstacle Breaching System (APOBS), which is an explosive line charge that is primarily used to clear a safe way through fields of landmines but can also be used to neutralize improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which are a big threat in Afghanistan. Soldiers use this system at such a high rate that stockpiles are quickly depleted. The sub that manufactured the fuzes for APOBS was performing the explosives work in suburban Los Angeles, Calif. This kind of work requires an explosives site safety plan, which was found to be deficient, so the sub was shut down for months. This was a big deal because if Soldiers didn’t have APOBS, they couldn’t protect themselves as effectively from IEDs; we had to keep them supplied. Since this vendor owned the proprietary data for the fuze, we were stuck because we couldn’t obtain the product from any other source.

    Soldiers with A Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, along with their Afghan National Army partners with the 4th Koy, 3rd Kandak, 3rd Brigade, 205th Corps, use an Anti-Personnel Obstacle Breaching System to clear an area of improvised explosive devices during an operation in Zharay, Afghanistan, Oct. 15, 2012. (Photo by Sgt. Ryan Hohman.)

    FOTF: How did you overcome this challenge?

    SCHEERER: It was my job to identify all of the problems and the right people who needed to be involved and to quickly get them talking so a solution could be developed. Getting people to work together was one of the biggest challenges, so we set up conferences twice a week to bring everyone together to come to a consensus on how to move forward. While we were trying to fix the sub’s problems, we got behind on the delivery schedule, so we worked a deal with the Marine Corps to borrow some APOBS to give to the Army so they wouldn’t run short. In the meantime, we were able to resolve the problems, got the sub operational again, and we recently produced the first batch of APOBS since the problem arose, which will restock Army reserves in Afghanistan. During all of this, our workaround plans ensured that Soldiers were never without APOBS. I’m pretty proud of that.

    FOTF: Can you give an example of how Soldiers have been resourceful with your systems in the field?

    SCHEERER: We have noticed that the usage of APOBS in Afghanistan has spiked. We have also noticed that sometimes only some parts of the APOBS are coming back for returns to depot. It appears that Soldiers in the field are finding other uses for the system and alternate ways of detonating it. Since there aren’t many minefields in Afghanistan, we suspect they are modifying the system to be more effective against IEDs. There is an ongoing effort to make things lighter for Soldiers, so it seems they are taking an existing system and experimenting with it to be more effective and easier to carry. That’s what I call resourcefulness. It’s also a great incentive for us here at home to quickly find solutions to meet their pressing needs. We are in the process of discovering exactly what they’re doing with APOBS and planning for improvements based on their input.

    FOTF: Has your job lived up to your childhood dreams?

    SCHEERER: When I was in elementary school, I developed a fascination with the cannons that I saw on frequent visits to Antietam Battlefield, Md. This led me to dream of being the person who built cannons and other armaments. That interest has persisted to this day and played a substantial part in guiding my education and convincing me to accept of a position at Picatinny Arsenal after college. My greatest satisfaction is being paid to pursue a childhood dream while at the same time keeping warfighters supplied with the equipment that makes them effective and helps keep them safe. Every time I hear an APOBS rocket fire followed by a boom, the third grader in me grins from ear to ear.

    Watch a YouTube video about APOBS at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vfBYclsfe0.

    • “Faces of the Force” is an online feature highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce. Produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication Division, and working closely with public affairs officers, Soldiers and Civilians currently serving in a variety of AL&T disciplines are featured every other week. For more information, or to nominate someone, please contact 703-805-1006.

    Read more »