TITLE: Contracting Officer
UNIT: Army Contracting Command
TOTAL YEARS OF ARMY SERVICE: 9
AWARDS: Official Commendation, Department of the Army (2); Commander’s Award for Civilian Service; Star Note, Program Executive Office Ammunition (2); Superior Civilian Service Award; Honorable Mention Elmer B. Staats Young Acquisition Professional Award
EDUCATION: MBA, St. Peter’s College; B.A. in history and B.S. in criminal justice, The University Of Scranton
Army acquisition career provides chance to lead and mentor
By Susan L. Follett
Roughly 10 years ago, Al Rinaldi was working for a rental car company while earning an MBA and looking for something more in a career. “A friend of mine was an engineer at Picatinny [Arsenal] and I mentioned to him that I was looking for something different,” said Rinaldi. “He offered to bring my resume to some people he knew, and a few months later I got a call about an opening.” But it turned out to be much more than just another job opportunity.
He added, “One thing I really enjoyed about my MBA program was the emphasis on leadership, and the Army’s core values were a perfect match from that perspective.” There’s also a family connection: both of Rinaldi’s grandfathers served in the Army, and a couple of other relatives served in the Air Force.
He spent eight years supporting the Project Manager for Towed Artillery Systems (PM TAS) before moving to his current role as contracting officer and group manager supporting the Nonstandard Weapons Program. “When I tell people what I do, most of them don’t realize that there’s a huge group of civilians working behind the scenes to make sure that we’re meeting the needs of our Soldiers,” he said. “I’m glad to be a part of that workforce.”
FOTF: What do you do in the Army?
RINALDI: I manage contracting support for the Nonstandard Weapons Program, which acquires, tests and analyzes weapons used all over the world. Previously, I served as a contracting officer supporting the fielded M777A2 LW155 howitzer, the M119A3 105MM howitzer and IPADS, the Improved Position and Azimuth Determining System.
FOTF: What’s the biggest challenge you face?
RINALDI: My current position supporting the Nonstandard Weapons Program involves a lot of our work acquiring and investigating weapons from Eastern European countries as well as Russia, and acquiring weapons and supplies for other foreign militaries. These systems are used for training and testing in the United States and outfitting our allies in their defense efforts. Nonstandard weapons are items that are not type classified and usually have configuration management significantly different than the way the United States catalogs our weapon systems.
There is a general lack of understanding from the requirements community on what they specifically want as far as configurations and variants of systems, and some items are incredibly difficult to source based on the timelines and dealings with foreign vendors. Furthermore, the work is often complicated by the political situation in Europe and Russia, so it’s important that we follow current events and track the executive orders and policy changes that are issued regarding that part of the world. That can be challenging, given how quickly and how often those change. I think the greatest challenge we face is balancing those regulations and processes with the goal of ensuring that warfighters get what they need.
FOTF: What do you enjoy most about your work?
RINALDI: When I worked for PM TAS, I had the opportunity to see the weapons that we worked on in action, which is something that we don’t often get to see. I went to Yuma Proving Ground and saw the LW155 howitzer fired and spoke with the Soldiers who operated it. Their feedback was invaluable, and I was also very proud of the work our team had done to get the weapon to them.
FOTF: What are some of the milestones you’ve achieved?
RINALDI: The most significant milestone achieved professionally was establishing a sustainment contract for the LW155 howitzer. It was a process that I began working on as a contract specialist in 2008 and included a competition that took more than two years to make an award on, but it provides full sustainment for the howitzer that’s currently fielded to the Army and Marine Corps. I achieved Level III certification in contracting and Level I certification in program management, and I’m a certified federal contracts manager through the National Contract Management Association.
FOTF: What is your greatest satisfaction in being part of the Army Acquisition Corps?
RINALDI: I really enjoy the mentoring aspect of my work. Recently, one of the people on my staff who I’ve mentored since she started at Picatinny received her Contracting Officer’s Warrant, and that was really gratifying. Additionally, ACC-NJ was one of the first contracting offices assigned a new cadre of 51C contingency contracting officers with the mission of teaching and training them in the new career field in the Army. One of the 51C contingency contracting officers I was assigned to mentor and train has been deployed as a warranted contracting officer. My proudest achievement, though, is having a team of specialists and contracting officers under my charge be recognized with the Commander’s Award for Civilian Service by PM TAS in February of 2013. Our team made 20 contract awards in just 100 days as part of the digitization effort for the 119 howitzer. Thanks in part to the work we did, the weapon has a new digital fire control system that’s more precise and accurate than the previous system.
- “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. For more information, or to nominate someone, please contact 703-805-1006.
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