Faces of the Force: Beler H. Watts III

COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Close Combat Weapon Systems Project Office, Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space
TITLE: Deputy product lead, Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile System
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level III in program management and in logistics
EDUCATION: M.A. and B.A. in business management, Columbia College
AWARDS: Commander's Award for Civilian Service (2)

Like most members of the Army Acquisition Workforce, Beler Watts has a lot on his plate. He's deputy product lead for the Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile System (LMAMS) within the Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space (PEO MS), and he and his team are working to get the new system fielded expeditiously. But speed often comes at the expense of quality and utility, and he's hoping to avoid that. "We want to get the system to the Soldier as quickly as we can, but we want to make sure we're getting them something that does what it should. What's that saying? 'Quick and cheap isn't always good, and good isn't always quick or cheap.' "

It's Watts' job to make certain that all aspects of the LMAMS program are accomplished. "I ensure that the contracting actions are complete, and I monitor the finance actions and training for the system," he said. "I try to ensure that Soldiers are getting the best product in their hands in the shortest amount of time. The greatest satisfaction I have is knowing that what I do is part of the bigger picture and that my small part ensures that quality products are fielded to the warfighter."

It's not surprising that the biggest challenge he faces is time management--"finding time to do all the different things that need to get done, and doing them well." Adding to that challenge is the size of Watts' team: At around 10 people, it's relatively small. "We all get to wear a lot of hats, but that's what makes this job so interesting. I do a multitude of things on a daily basis, including contracting, finance, logistics and engineering. And that's the best thing about my job--that on any given day, I'll be in contact with all of those different areas. Every day I'm doing something different."

After a 20-year career in the Army, Watts retired in 2005 as a sergeant first class. While on active duty, he worked with the Dragon and TOW (tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided) missiles for Bradley Fighting Vehicles and with missile guidance systems. After retirement, he spent three years as a contractor, doing staff work related to aviation maintenance, pre-positioned stocks and equipment transfer.

He joined PEO MS in 2008, initially assigned to logistics programs related to the Bradley: testing, equipment specifications, working with depots and producing technical manuals and other publications. In 2012, he took a developmental assignment as deputy product lead. "I had been a logistician for about four years with the Close Combat Weapon Systems [CCWS] Project Office, and was ready for a change. I then competed for the deputy product lead position, was fortunate enough to be selected, and I've been here ever since," he said.

"My advice is to pursue some of the opportunities out there for developmental assignments and experience what the acquisition world has to offer," he said. "There are multiple programs available for acquisition personnel, and the more someone takes advantage of these programs, the more rounded that person will be. And it will set them up better for advancement in their careers."

Although he's no longer in uniform, Watts still uses the leadership experience he gained from his active-duty tenure. "The supervisory and organization skills I learned as a noncommissioned officer come into play on this job when it comes to working with people, and the experience I gained in logistics, maintenance and supply operations are invaluable in keeping things moving."

Originally designed to target snipers or those emplacing improvised explosive devices, LMAMS is a Soldier-carried and Soldier-launched loitering missile system that allows precision engagement of enemy combatants without exposing warfighters to direct fire. The system allows Soldiers on the ground to engage with targets they cannot see. It can fly to a specific position or be diverted with its wave-off capabilities to minimize collateral damage.

LMAMS started out as a rapid acquisition system and is fielded under multiple joint urgent operational needs statements. "It's not a program of record yet, but we're working toward that. We work with HQDA and obtain funding through overseas contingency operations funds to buy and develop what we need," Watts explained. "We're working with the Maneuver Center of Excellence and the Capability Development Integration Directorate, and the courses I took through Defense Acquisition University have been really helpful as we go through that process."

Whether LMAMS will become a program of record is unresolved. "We're on the verge, but it's tough to say where it will go. It's important that we demonstrate what it can do and how it can fit into the Army's needs." Despite the uncertainty, Watts is grateful for the experience he has had. "Being able to stay in this job and see a new system through the process of becoming a program of record is very interesting. Having the mentorship of some of the CCWS leadership and learning from their experiences also has helped me tremendously," he said.

He added, "The most important lesson that I've learned is to treat people with respect and kindness. I apply that in my work by trying to understand where others are coming from, in their opinions and respective positions. Always trying to see any situation from both sides has greatly enhanced my work, and I hope it has enabled me to become a better co-worker and leader."

This article is published in the January - March 2019 issue of Army AL&T magazine.