By Mr. Chuck C Wullenjohn (ATEC)April 3, 2018
A huge percentage of the annual U.S Army Yuma Proving Ground, Az., workload is devoted to conducting munitions tests -- large, small, conventional, precision guided, developmental, and futuristic. Nearly 70 percent of the tests conducted by Yuma Test Center's Munitions and Weapons Division are centered around munitions.
One of the proving ground's largest single test customers is based at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., and is known as "Program Executive Office (PEO) Ammunition." The office is responsible for the life-cycle acquisition management of all Army conventional ammunition with the goal of providing high quality, reliable ammunition to America's Soldiers.
Brig. Gen. Alfred Abramson, who entered the Army in 1990, assumed the topmost leadership role of the office this past December. A friendly, personable individual, he explains his role in a straightforward, unvarnished manner.
"As an acquisition professional, I have one agenda," he said. "That is to provide capability to the warfighter -- period, end of story."
Abramson made a point of visiting Yuma Proving Ground late last month to gain a better appreciation of the proving ground's capabilities and to get an in-depth look at its processes. He said he arrived with a blank sheet of paper, with no preconceived notions.
During his intensive two day visit, he spent most of the time on YPG's Kofa Firing Range where he visited numerous test facilities, listened intently to briefings and shook hands. Abramson presented coins to several people providing what he considered unheralded but excellent test support.
As he prepared to depart, he judged it as time well spent.
"My main takeaway is that I had not been fully cognizant how much Yuma Proving Ground is part of the process," he said, "and I cannot underscore or say it enough. YPG's workforce is absolutely critical to our ability to provide quality rounds to the joint service warfighter."
The makings of a successful organization
All military installations consist of brick and mortar buildings, all built or reconfigured to perform a particular mission. Abramson believes what truly sets one organization apart from another is the quality of the workforce. What he saw at YPG seems to have made an impact.
"It was obvious that folks at YPG absolutely love what they do and are fully dedicated to providing capability to the warfighter," said Abramson. "I met people who have served 30 or more years, which is a testament both to good leadership and their commitment to the important work performed at YPG, both of which have created a great organizational culture."
Abramson said he had several "aha" moments at the various locations he visited. One related to the precision artillery projectile lot acceptance testing taking place. He witnessed the complex, thorough process that takes place to validate the fired rounds in whatever ambient temperature each test requires.
"The group of men and women who come together at YPG to do this is amazing," he said. "They're efficient and effective. Seeing it added to my perspective of YPG's capability in terms of validating, confirming and qualifying the munitions we at PEO Ammunition provide to the warfighter."
The pendulum swings
As program executive for ammunition, Abramson is responsible for ensuring the quality and dependability of munitions for the Army as well as other services, depending on the caliber. It's a big responsibility and, fortunately for him, the environment seems to be subtly changing.
He feels the Army today is at an inflection point in which the resource-constrained environment of the recent past is changing. He believes resources are beginning to move in the Army's direction, particularly regarding readiness and modernization.
"Munitions today are getting more lethal, have greater range, and have more precision and accuracy," said Abramson. "We are in the development stage of developing munitions that will carry us into the next 15 to 20 years."
The test infrastructure must be present to test these new munitions. Not only that, but the development timetable has shortened.
"We are improving at breakneck speed and YPG is absolutely critical to the effort," he said.
An aggressive schedule
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has laid out carefully defined priorities for the Army, establishing eight cross functional teams to carry them out. Of these teams, long range precision fires, is the number one focus. PEO Ammunition is inextricably linked to this tip of the spear effort.
"We intend to bring about these new capabilities much quicker than the traditional acquisition process," said Abramson. "We plan to demonstrate an initial capability within the long range/precision context in two years, which is an aggressive schedule."
He went on to say that there will be numerous partners in this effort, organizations that will work shoulder-to-shoulder to ensure everyone's expertise is included.
"Yuma Proving Ground needs to be prepared to test, validate and qualify these long range rounds," said Abramson. "YPG is in the process of getting there, which is refreshing."
He believes the intent of the Army Chief Of Staff will be achieved, and a partnership in which a village of people together build a capability that leads into the future will grow and prosper.
But he also believes all organizations need to honestly ask themselves a question.
"The primary mission of the Army is to defend the nation. What are those things we are doing to achieve this goal and carry us into the future?" asked Abramson. "Those decisions are being made today."