PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - The Program Executive Office for Ammunition has expanded to add towed artillery systems to the growing list of products that it manages for the military.

On Jan. 20, Army Acquisition Executive Malcolm O'Neill approved the immediate transfer of the Program Manager Lightweight 155 office located here from the Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems, headquartered at Warren, Mich., to Picatinny's Program Executive Office, or PEO, Ammunition.

O'Neill also approved the immediate renaming of PM Program Manager Lightweight 155 to Project Manager Towed Artillery Systems.

Project Manager Towed Artillery Systems is a joint project management office between the Army and the United States Marine Corps, consisting of 15 Army civilians and 11 Marine Corps civilians. The office manages all towed howitzers in the Army's inventory, the M777A2 howitzer for the Marine Corps, and two survey systems.

Because of Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems' geographical distance from its Picatinny-based employees and its increased mission to include the Ground Combat Vehicle, senior Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems officials recommended that Project Manager Towed Artillery Systems realign to PEO Ammunition, explained Jim Shields, Deputy Program Executive Officer for Ammunition.

The transition will also make it easier to manage personnel matters and allow Project Manager Towed Artillery Systems to engage more frequently with other PEO Ammunition organizations, such as Product Manager Excalibur, which manages the 155mm precision-guided Excalibur artillery round that is fired from the M777A2 howitzer.

"It makes a lot of sense because we will manage artillery systems as opposed to individual pieces," Shields said.

"The artillery propellant, fuses, primers, munitions and now weapons will all be at the same place. I think we'll see benefits when it comes to integration and a significant reduction in interface issues. We'll be able to get equipment to the Soldiers quicker and more efficiently.

"There's software that ARDEC (Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center) is developing and maintaining to support PM TAS (Project Manager Towed Artillery Systems), and now there will be improved opportunities for commonality and leveraging with the software being developed for our mortar fire control systems," Shields added.

"This will help us to re-establish the relationships as we move forward. It's going to be good for Picatinny and will make Picatinny stronger," explained Keith Gooding, with Project Manager Towed Artillery Systems.

"I've noticed already with the little time we've been under PEO Ammo, that we're starting to re-engage with ARDEC, which I think is a good thing. It's positive for us to interface with the expertise that ARDEC has in weapons systems."

The entire Program Manager Lightweight 155 office had been located at Picatinny, so no employees were relocated because of the realignment.

"The biggest change from the program office is how we interface and operate in the PEO," Gooding said. "Different PEOs have different standard operating procedures and policies. I'm still learning how PEO Ammunition operates, how it's structured and how we need to support the organization."

"I know all the employees in that office," said Shields, who was the Program Manager Lightweight 155 before becoming the Deputy PEO for Ammunition. "I know it's a great office with high-performing people who have done tremendous work over the years. I think we're fortunate to have them join the ranks of PEO Ammo."

The suite of systems that has transferred from PEO GCS to PEO Ammunition include:

- Lightweight 55mm M777A2 Howitzer - A joint Army and Marine program, the M777A2 is made primarily of high strength titanium alloy and weighs 40 percent less than the original M198 system it is replacing, making it much easier to transport.

- M198 Howitzer - The legacy 155mm towed howitzer for the Army, which is being replaced by the M777A2.

- M119A2 Howitzer - A light-weight 105mm howitzer used in a direct support artillery role for Infantry Brigade Combat Teams and used extensively in Afghanistan.

- Russian D-30 Howitzer - A Russian 122mm howitzer that PEO Ammunition is responsible for refurbishing for the Afghan Army.

- Gun Laying and Positioning System - A legacy system that provides critical input for the field artillery mission on the digital battlefield, determining precise aiming of cannon artillery.

- M111 Improved Position and Azimuth Determining System Program - An inertial survey system that is not dependent on the Global Positioning System, that is used to provide primary and back-up, precise location, elevation and direction for field artillery cannons, rockets, missiles and Patriot air defense artillery platforms.

Project Manager Counter Explosive Hazard

In addition to Project Manager Towed Artillery Systems, PEO Ammunition will stand up another new Project Manager office in 2012.

PEO Ammunition's Project Manager Close Combat Systems will be reorganized and part of its portfolio of products will be transferred to a new office that will be called Project Manager Counter Explosive Hazard, which will manage counter mine and counter improvised explosive device products.

"PM CCS has a very broad and diverse portfolio and supports hundreds of products," Shields said. "We now have approval to break-out a portion of PM Close Combat Systems' current mission and establish another PM office. PM Close Combat Systems will continue to be led by an Army O6, as will the new Project Manager Counter Explosive Hazards.

"By separating the counter explosive hazard mission out from PM CCS (PM Close Combat Systems), each office can better organize, focus and execute in their specific areas," he added.

"We're grouping similar products within a portfolio so that items like the Self-Protection Adaptive Roller Kit rollers, ground penetrating radars, and other IED-defeat products are managed separately from PM CCS items like hand grenades, demolitions, shoulder launched munitions, non-lethal, pyrotechnics and emplaced munitions."