COMMAND/ORGANIZATION: Product Manager for Next Generation Weapons, Project Manager for Soldier Lethality, Program Executive Office for Soldier
TITLE: Assistant product manager
YEARS OF SERVICE IN WORKFORCE: 2
YEARS OF MILITARY SERVICE: 13
DAWIA CERTIFICATIONS: Level II in program management
EDUCATION: MBA with concentration in consulting and data analytics, University of Notre Dame; B.S. in civil engineering, United States Military Academy at West Point
AWARDS: Bronze Star (2nd award); Meritorious Service Medal; Army Commendation Medal (4th award); Army Achievement Medal (3rd award); Valorous Unit Award; Meritorious Unit Award; National Defense Service Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal; Iraqi Campaign Medal; Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal; Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon; North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medal; Parachutist Badge; Ranger Tab; Special Forces Tab; Combat Diver Badge; Combat Infantryman Badge; Expert Infantryman Badge
HOMETOWN: Silver Spring, Maryland
For Maj. Samuel Butler, striving to maintain overmatch capabilities for Soldiers is all in a day’s work. As the assistant product manager for Next Generation Squad Weapons (NGSW) within the Program Executive Office for Soldier, he leads a team that is tasked with developing two new rifle systems that are revolutionizing close-combat capabilities.
“Technologically, this was not thought to be possible a couple of years ago,” Butler said of the 6.8 mm NGSW – Rifle (NGSW-R) and the NGSW – Automatic Rifle (NGSW-AR). “Some folks characterized it as ‘breaking physics,’ ” but Butler said these weapons already are improving lethality and engagement distances.
“I’m incredibly fortunate to work on a program that is so relevant to the warfighter,” Butler said. “Soldiers and Marines have fought with a 5.56 mm M16 variant since the mid-1960s and a version of the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon since the mid-1980s. The capabilities of 5.56 mm ammunition have largely plateaued.”
The NGSW program is in the prototype phase. Three industry partners are working with Butler’s team and some of the best shooters in the Army to develop the weapons. Recent tests at Fort Benning, Georgia, proved that the 6.8 mm projectile moves at a higher velocity and outperforms the ammunition currently in use by the Army. “It is unlike anything currently available,” Butler said. In addition, the NGSW-R and NGSW-AR have advanced combat optical gunsights that provide six-power magnification over the standard four-power optic on existing military rifles. Equipped with sensors and laser range finders, Soldiers are able to home in accurately on targets at 600 meters as opposed to the 300 meters of modern weapons.
Butler has been in acquisition for two years, previously serving as an infantry officer and a U.S. Army Special Forces detachment commander, where he developed critical relationship skills that serve him well in his new role. “As a special forces officer, my team and I relied on host nations, partner forces and the conventional Army to accomplish our missions. Oftentimes, the critical support we were given was not required, but offered because of common ground, authentic relationships and an understanding of each other,” Butler said.
“Similarly, in the acquisition world, our program relies on authentic relationships across organizations for success. On a near-daily basis, I work with the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team at the Futures Command; our agreements officer and his team at the Army Materiel Command; Soldiers to inform design direction at the Forces Command; and the science and technology folks at the Combat Capabilities Development Command. If relationships are strained, it becomes very difficult to find solutions and achieve successes.”
Butler’s philosophy about relationships carries over to NGSW industry partners. “The work environment is challenging and dynamic, and the relationships with our vendors are very transparent and open. They trust us, and we are welcome in the doors. We see behind the curtains and understand their risks and problems.”
Tapping into his special forces experience and connections, Butler arranged special NGSW testing events that allowed each vendor to test its specific solution for a full day at Range 37 with 15 of the best operational shooters in the Army. Range 37, located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, is a 130-acre, 360-degree, live-fire shoothouse that tests the capabilities of special forces Soldiers. The events were not part of formal test or development plans. Vendors provided positive feedback, saying that they could not come close to replicating such events by themselves and that they want more of them.
“In the first four hours on the range, one vendor stated that they collected more feasible operational feedback than they have ever collected before,” Butler said. To date, a total of 567 Soldiers have been involved, spending 7,658 Soldier-hours testing solutions from vendors and providing feedback to the NGSW program. “We can do these types of things because there are so many senior leaders who are interested in our success and support the program,” he said. All three vendor solutions proved to be feasible and operationally relevant during the Range 37 events.
For Butler, his ability to do his job well directly affects Soldiers in a way that is unique from his previous assignments. “As an infantry officer, I led some great Americans during deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan in challenging environments to bring stability. As a special forces detachment commander, I specialized in unconventional warfare and worked to give policymakers options,” he said. “As an assistant product manager on the NGSW program, I am uniquely impacting Soldiers and Marines across the globe. These weapon systems will be fielded to the close combat force and employed in every combatant command’s area of responsibility. My work will provide them with a multigenerational rifle that will be their new weapon for the next 30 years.”
Butler said his greatest challenge is trying to get his boss in trouble on purpose. “Our commanding officer challenged our team to push the acquisition limits. He told us he wanted to get complaints because we are going too fast and challenging the status quo. It’s been both awesome and rewarding to push the traditional boundaries that many organizations find comfort in, so that we can get these weapons into the hands of Soldiers and Marines who need them.”
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