COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Armaments Center, matrixed to Joint Program Executive Office for Armaments and Ammunition
TITLE: Acting deputy product director for special ammunition and weapon systems
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 21
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Practitioner in engineering and technical management, Practitioner in program management, Advanced in DAU international acquisition
EDUCATION: B.S. in mechanical engineering, New Jersey Institute of Technology
by Holly DeCarlo-White
Joseph Leone’s position as an Army acquisition professional makes an undeniable global impact. Most people, he said, are surprised that most of his work happens right here in the U.S. As the acting deputy product director for special ammunition and weapon systems, he is responsible for overseeing roughly $1.4 billion in contracts that provide nonstandard ammunition and mortar systems, and non-program-of-record 120mm tank ammunition for U.S. allies, joint forces warfighters and other U.S. agencies.
Nonstandard ammunition and mortar systems are ammunition, explosives and weapons that are not managed by inventory control points—organizational units tasked with materiel management functions such as acquisition, distribution, maintenance and disposal—have not been safety-tested and type-classified for Army use, do not have a national stock number, and cannot be procured or requisitioned through the Army or other Department of Defense supply systems.
“This ammunition allows our coalition partners to fight the fight and create a stable situation around the world,” Leone said. “The work I do in the United States has a dramatic impact on geopolitical issues globally.” Recently, he was responsible for providing more than 15 million rounds of ammunition, valued at $50 million to Ukraine. The country then made a follow-on request to provide indirect fire ammunition valued at $130 million.
Leone had to “aggressively authorize undelivered Afghanistan ammunition” to make this happen. In 2020, when NATO forces began to withdraw from Afghanistan, undelivered equipment remained unused—until conflict in Ukraine began to escalate. As tensions rose at the border between Russia and Ukraine in January 2022, the U.S. began sending tons of military aid. “This ammunition was authorized prior to the invasion and three deliveries were successfully made [to Ukraine].”
This year, the U.S. has provided gear and supplies to Ukraine including Stinger anti-aircraft systems, Javelin anti-armor systems, Switchblade unmanned aircraft system, howitzer artillery systems and rounds, helicopters, tactical vehicles, ammunition, radar systems, High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, body armor, helmets and Harpoon launch systems for coastal defense.
Since the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, the U.S. has sent more than $9 billion in security assistance to the Ukrainians through both the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative and presidential drawdown authority. Presidential drawdown authority allows the president, in certain circumstances, to withdraw weapons, ammunitions and material from existing U.S. military stocks and provide that to other nations.
It is work like this, Leone said, that gives him the greatest satisfaction in being part of the Army Acquisition Workforce.
Leon said there are many points during the span of his more than 20-year career that make him proud. When he was a quality assurance engineer, he was responsible for procuring and fielding vital equipment that protected forward operating bases (FOBs) in Afghanistan from personnel-borne improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and vehicle-borne IEDs at entry control points—the main access gates to military installations. That was during his tenure at the Enterprise and Systems Integration Center, Quality Engineering and System Assurance directorate.
“That equipment had an immediate impact in providing protection to the warfighter at these FOBs,” Leone said. Equipment procured ranged from drop arm and pop-up barriers for vehicles, turnstiles and inspection equipment for personnel, power generation and blast protection for personnel via guard shacks and tower.
Later in his career he had the chance to meet Soldiers who had been there in Afghanistan and, as they were swapping “war stories,” they explained how a vehicle-borne IED attacked their location and the vehicle was stopped at the entry control point. Leone said this saved their lives and allowed him to talk to them years later. “I knew the work I did to support the urgent materiel release, contract actions, etc., helped save those Soldiers’ lives,” he said.
Leone’s first acquisition position was with U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Armaments Center, designing the laser ignition for the Crusader 155mm self-propelled howitzer. He was hired after attending a job fair right out of college.
“This was a dream job for a recent college graduate (who) wanted to design hardware that would be used on weapon systems,” he said. It was in this position where he first “got to experience the other aspect of the acquisition life cycle.” Leone said he realized that even the best designed item can’t go anywhere unless the person fielding it knows the acquisition life cycle and the process it takes to provide new systems to the warfighter as quickly as possible. “I needed to grow my experience and understand the process to get equipment to the field,” Leone said.
“Security assistance is another process that needs to be considered as part of the acquisition life cycle,” he said. Security assistance is the process by which the U.S. government provides defense articles, military education and training, and other defense-related services to eligible foreign governments by grant, loan, credit, cash sales or lease. Leone added that security cooperation workforce training, which involves building and maintaining relationships, combined training efforts and foreign military sales, has been vital in his support to the product director for special ammunition and weapons systems. Security cooperation seeks to advance U.S. national security and foreign policy interests by building the capacity of foreign security forces to respond to shared challenges. He is looking at future developmental assignments where his security assistance and foreign military sales experience can benefit other programs. “I will continue my security assistance training to work to achieve my advanced certification and eventually expert certification,” he said referring to the DOD Security Cooperation Workforce Certification program.
With such a demanding role, working in a high operational tempo environment, stepping away is something Leone values as a key to success, both on and off the job. Outside of the office, he enjoys taking his vacation time, especially escaping on ocean cruises. Over the course of his career, Leone said it has been important to remember three things: “Keep an open mind. Keep a good work-life balance. Try to step back and enjoy life.”
“Faces of the Force” is an online series highlighting members of the Army Acquisition Workforce through the power of individual stories. Profiles are produced by the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center Communication and Support Branch, working closely with public affairs officers to feature Soldiers and civilians serving in various AL&T disciplines. For more information, or to nominate someone, please go to https://asc.army.mil/web/publications/army-alt-submissions/.