COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space, Tactical Aviation and Ground Munitions (TAGM) Project Office
TITLE: International program manager
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 6
YEARS OF MILITARY SERVICE: 29
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Advanced certification in logistics
EDUCATION: B.S. in sociology, Excelsior College
AWARDS: STORM Project Office Employee of the Quarter (July through Sept. 2020), Legion of Merit (2011), two Bronze Stars (2003, 2005), and two Air Medals (2003, 2005), Meritorious Service Medal (1999)
James R. Carter
by Holly DeCarlo-White
If there is one thing that’s true about serving in the U.S. military, it’s that it can spark your interest for a future career in unexpected places all over the world. For James R. Carter, it was while stationed in Egypt that he became interested in the foreign military sales (FMS) aspect of acquisition, a field he would continue to grow in even after active-duty retirement.
While based in Cairo, Carter traveled to various Egyptian air force bases and supply depots serving as the AH-64 Apache helicopter technical assistance field team chief and instructor pilot, and then as a security assistance team manager. After he retired in 2011, he accepted a contract offer to continue as a liaison for security assistance. “I provided a direct link as a liaison officer between AMCOM [U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command], SAMD [Security Assistance Management Directorate] and USASAC [U.S. Army Security Assistance Command] for the Egyptian air force for logistics and FMS case-related issues,” he said. Carter then transitioned to work directly for the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command’s Security Assistance Management Directorate.
“At AMCOM SAMD I was a logistics management specialist for the Egypt AH-64 Apache program,” he said. “At SAMD I managed, developed, amended and worked FMS cases, and planned, coordinated and led program management reviews to keep the Egyptian air force informed of the status of their programs and resolve any issues on the program.”
The FMS program is a fundamental tool of U.S. foreign policy. Under the Arms Export Control Act, the U.S. may sell defense articles and services to foreign countries and international organizations when doing so will strengthen the security of the U.S. and promote world peace.
His years of service and international security assistance experience led him to where he is today, an international program manager, recently moving into the role to the Tactical Aviation and Ground Munitions (TAGM) Project Office from the Strategic and Operational Rockets and Missiles (STORM) Project Office, within the Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space.
The TAGM Project Office provides service and support as the executive procurement agent and life cycle manager for the joint warfighter’s aviation and ground rocket and missile systems. Carter supports FMS programs traveling on average six times per year between the U.S. and international destinations to ensure allied and coalition partner nations that procure rocket launchers and munitions receive a total package of support and services to successfully integrate the system into their national defense organizations, Carter said. “These efforts enable the Army warfighter to know that allied and coalition partners have the capability to provide support during joint operations.”
“When I describe my work, people are generally surprised by the amount of opportunities I’ve had to travel both internationally and within the U.S. supporting foreign military sales programs.” Carter, who in his personal time is also a certified dive instructor, said, “I really enjoy seeing European countries and experiencing new cultures. Of course, the past year has been an exception to that rule,” because of COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions.
It was during the pandemic, however, that Carter’s field was faced with a challenge that now marks a proud moment in his career. As travel was no longer an option to conduct regular business and training abroad, a virtual capability became immediately necessary to support FMS programs.
“One of the most important points in my career was the recent virtual coordination of a critical software development effort for an FMS partner due to COVID travel restrictions,” he said. To achieve this, “we conducted weekly briefings to leadership and closely tracked all requirements for the successful completion of the project.” It was with perseverance, Carter said, that “our efforts culminated in the first remote fielding and distance learning training for FMS,” a capability that will continue to be used beyond the pandemic as an added avenue for FMS program support.
“The ability to conduct virtual training is now a proven option for austere environments or for areas where U.S. personnel may be prevented from traveling to conduct training,” he said.
“The development started right before COVID restrictions hit. There were a few instances where a positive COVID test led to the software lab being shut down for cleaning. I worked with the software leads to run additional tests to keep slips in schedule to a minimum, enabling the software effort to get back on schedule,” Carter said. “Software is important to all modern weapon systems, with the potential for each FMS country to require unique configurations based on their requirements. As a program manager it is not really a daily task.”
Perseverance is one of the most important lessons Carter has learned in his almost 30-year military career. “It applies to all aspects of life,” he said. “If you want to be something or do something, make a plan, and take the steps to accomplish the plan, even if there are setbacks along the way.”
Carter gives this type of meaningful advice and more to others joining the acquisition workforce. “I have always advised junior personnel, as well as my peers,” he said. “I encourage and mentor them to learn and know the job, continuously seek opportunities to expand their knowledge base through formal or informal training, and cross-train when the opportunity presents itself.”
The last Defense Acquisition University distance learning course Carter completed in June 2021 is one that he recommends to anyone interested in the acquisition process. The course, Acquisition 315 Understanding Industry, exceeded his expectations. “My biggest takeaway was the insight into how the acquisition process may look from an industry perspective,” he said.
Overall, “It has been an interesting job,” Carter said when speaking of his acquisition career experience. “FMS acquisitions are a constant challenge, but very rewarding, and offer plenty of opportunity for advancement, travel and personal growth.”
“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/.