By Mr. Eric Kowal (RDECOM)October 10, 2013
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. (Oct. 10, 2013) -- It has been two years since the U.S. Navy officially re-established its presence at Picatinny Arsenal, beginning Sep. 15, 2011. It had been close to 50 years since the Navy relinquished all land and responsibilities back to the U.S. Army in July 1960, before a small three-person team prepared for a "stand-up" here in 2007.
The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC) Commission recommended and the congress and the president approved the creation of an integrated weapons and armaments specialty site for guns and ammunition at Picatinny Arsenal. Jobs and functions were transferred here from Earle Naval Weapons Station in Colts Neck, N.J., the Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Explosive Ordnance Technology Division's Louisville Detachment, in Louisville, Ky., the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Crane, Ind., and the Naval Air Warfare Center, Weapons Division, China Lake, Calif.
The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head Explosive Ordnance Technology Division's Picatinny Detachment (NSWC IHEODTD) includes three primary functions:
•ammunition in-service and acquisition engineering for all the Navy's conventional ammunition.
• gun systems in-service and acquisition engineering
• Weapons and armaments packaging, handling, storage, and transportation (PHS&T) development, testing and in-service engineering.
As the Navy's Center of Energetic Excellence, NSWC IHEODTD's mission is to provide research, development, test and evaluation, and in-service support of energetics and energetic materials for warheads, propulsion systems, ordnance and pyrotechnic devices and fuzing for the Navy, Joint Forces, and the nation.
Within the command, the detachment is known as the Systems Integration Department. Its mission is to perform research, development, acquisition and sustainment of guns and ammunition for the Navy. This includes supporting system design and procurement, installation, in-service trouble shooting, and lifecycle support for guns and ammunition.
Additionally, the detachment supports weapon developments by designing shipping containers and specialized handling equipment for new and upgraded weapons at its PHST Division.
This includes design, qualification, acquisition support, and in--service engineering for weapons containers, ordnance handling equipment, ordnance storage/stowage systems, and transportation systems. The relocation of the Navy's guns and ammunition and PHST functions to Picatinny Arsenal facilitates collaboration among Navy and Army subject matter experts.
David Rogers, the NSWC IHEODTD Deputy Department Head, previously served as the BRAC Transition Manager and was the first to come aboard in 2007 when he and two other team members began to prepare to bring about 240 new jobs to Picatinny.
Rogers, who commutes from Monmouth County, N.J., each day, previously worked at Earle Naval Weapons Station, one of the transfer locations resulting from BRAC. He is the Deputy to John Hungerford IV, the NSWC IHEODTD Department Head.
The transfer of functions from other facilities meant the loss of years of knowledge since not everyone moved to Picatinny.
"We retained roughly 40 percent of our staff during BRAC," Hungerford said. "No employees came from Crane (Indiana), where we had our ammo function, so we literally had to train an entire new staff of workers. Crane assisted in the training process but if you think about that, it's a challenge to stand up a function with an entirely new staff and pick up where you left off.
"It's easy to say the biggest challenge we have had to date is BRAC," Hungerford continued. "There was a realization that we have to support the mission throughout the BRAC transition, and you lose a lot of key people."
Moving to a new work location is not easy. "You are engrained in that community," Rogers explained. "You have to do your job, while moving your family, changing children's schools, perhaps finding a new job for your spouse, moving into temporary housing facilities, and then moving again. It's a huge challenge."
Regarding program challenges, Hungerford said that while the packaging and handling of weapons and ammunition for the Army and all other branches of U.S. Armed Forces is important, the challenge is different for the Navy because the Navy essentially sleeps with the weapons they are carrying.
"We can't just throw our packaging overboard. Most of our weapons live in their shipping containers, ready to be loaded into the system they were meant to be fired with," Hungerford noted.
"If something goes wrong with the weapon it can affect the whole ship. We have to carefully manage handling and arming," he said. "Onboard a ship at sea, you will experience roll, pitch and yaw which, depending on the sea state, can be significant. No matter how rough the sea state is, we have to be able to protect that weapon and the ammo from being unintentionally initiated. As a result, there is a lot of specialized equipment on a ship. Not only that, but throw in the fact that elements such as sea salt cause corrosion which creates a real maintenance nightmare. It's just a completely different environment."
"There is a goal to be able to reconstitute subject matter expertise that you lose during BRAC," Hungerford said. "We've been very fortunate and brought in amazing employees. Our new employees never cease to amaze me. Additionally, the employees that we did convince to move have been terrific mentors and role models for our new employees."
Hungerford said that due to constant changes in the government, employee turnover is somewhat unpredictable. Succession planning includes creating a strategy that allows for building during continuous re-staffing.
"I don't know how many in today's workforce can say they have been here for 30 years like Dave or I," Hungerford noted.
Hungerford travels to Picatinny just about every other week. On the off-weeks, he spends his time at NSWC Indian Head Explosive Ordnance Technology Divistion, in Indian Head, Md.
"In Maryland I spend a lot of time visiting program managers, meeting with sponsors at both NAVSEA Headquarters in Washington and NAVAIR Headquarters in Patuxent River, MD, and doing the day to day interface with our command. Dave is here full time and, as my deputy, he serves as my eyes and ears here on the ground at Picatinny," Hungerford said.
Hungerford said he has roughly 220 employees at the Picatinny Detachment with another 30 or so at fleet locations like Norfolk, San Diego, Bath shipyard, as well as in Louisville, KY overseeing our Original Equipment Manufacturers (BAE and Raytheon) and other areas.
Of the roughly 240 employees on staff, only four are military.
"We are disbursed at fleet-concentration areas," Hungerford said. "I have to have boots on the ground to determine weapon conditions and work with the ships as they go in and out of the ports."
The staff includes three employees who make up the Mobile Ammunition Evaluation and Reconditioning Unit, which refurbishes ammunition located outside the continental United States.
By bringing unserviceable ammunition back into usable condition, the MAERU team saves tremendous amounts of procurement dollars since this ammunition doesn't have to be demiled and replaced.
Praise to Picatinny
"The Picatinny Garrison has made this an amazing transition," Hungerford said. "They welcomed us with open arms.
"As we built and moved into our facilities, the Army Corps of Engineers oversaw the construction but it was the Garrison that oversaw quality. They were a tremendous asset," he added
"The Picatinny NEC (Network Enterprise Center) is also an organization that was a huge help in getting us up and running. They played a big role in recommending how our IT (information technology) infrastructure should be designed and setup," Rogers said.
"We collaborated with the Army to host our RDT&E networks on the DREN where the Army is responsible for the infrastructure and the information assurance. Additionally, instead of buying a few individual software licenses on our own, we fund the Army to use a share of their enterprise license, this results in a large cost savings for us," Rogers said.
Both Hungerford and Rogers said that the NSWC IHDEODTD works extremely close with Picatinny's largest tenant organization, the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center. Navy personnel also use ARDEC's Armaments University, which offers a suite of new small arms training courses to instruct engineers on weapons manufacturing and assembly.
"The Army is currently testing howitzer ammunition on the Navy's gun range where we test our aircraft guns, while their Balistic Evaluation Complex is renovated,"Hungerford said.
History of the Navy at Picatinny
The Navy first emerged on the U.S. Army installation in the 1890s when, according to Picatinny's historian Patrick Owens, Picatinny lost 315 acres on Hickory Hill to the U.S. Naval Ammunition Depot.
The Navy needed to move ammunition it had been storing on Ellis Island in New York Harbor because the government was transferring an immigration station previously located near the Battery area of Manhattan to the island.
The Army powder depot commander, Maj. J. E. Reilly, thought the new installation might create safety problems for his depot and advised against the Army's surrender of jurisdiction, but he transferred the tract to Commander J. B. Coghlan on June 9, 1891.