PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. -- The Department of Defense announced Nov. 17 that the Project Manager Towed Artillery Systems at Picatinny Arsenal had been awarded the 2016 Secretary of Defense Performance Based Logistics (PBL) System Level Award for their efforts creating a competitive procurement contract that improved M777A2 Towed Howitzer readiness and amounted to more than $1.6 million in program cost savings.

“PBL is a key Department of Defense strategy used to deliver an integrated, affordable support solution to optimize system readiness and reduce Operating and Support costs,” said Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, in a memo announcing the award winners.

“The Secretary of Defense PBL Awards recognize government/industry teams that have demonstrated outstanding achievements in providing our Warfighters with exceptional operational capability,” Kendall explained. “These teams successfully utilize PBL agreements and are examples of Better Buying Power in action.”

The M777A2 is a lightweight towed howitzer used by the Army and Marine Corps. Due to innovative use of titanium and aluminum alloys, it is the world's first 155mm Howitzer weighing less than 10,000 pounds. 

M777A2 Performance Based Life Cycle Sustainment is a hybrid organic/contractor sustainment strategy through which the Army, Marine Corps, as well as BAE Systems as the Product Support Integrator, all provide support to ensure that the M777A2 is sustained throughout its life cycle.  

“The M777A2 hybrid PBL structure combines the best capabilities and skills of both the U.S. government and the prime PBL contractors’ to deliver an optimal level of service to our Warfighters,” said Jim Shields, the Program Executive Officer Ammunition. “The commitment to the program from the many stakeholders across multiple service organizations, and the contractor, has resulted in delivering cost-effective sustainment support to the Army, Marine Corps, and eventually our international partners’ fleet of howitzers.  I'm very proud of the work the team has done to establish and grow the M777A2 PBL and to see all their effort be recognized at the highest level in DOD."

PM TAS is a joint program managed by both the Army’s PEO Ammunition and the Marine Corps’ PEO Land Systems.

“The Towed Artillery Systems team has done an outstanding job of providing our Marines and Soldiers with a reliable and robust capability,” added Col. Andrew Bianca, Acting PEO, Land Systems, Marine Corps. “The initiative, collaboration and responsiveness of the joint program office to the needs of the warfighter has been evident by their drive and commitment to keep our howitzers at an extremely high state of readiness.”

The Towed Artillery System PBL Team, in conjunction with the Army Contracting Command-New Jersey, implemented a 10-year firm-fixed price effort with BAE Systems to incentivize performance of overall system readiness and cost savings for the support of the joint Marine Corps and Army M777A2 Towed Howitzer fleet. 

Through the contract terms, BAE Systems is incentivized through the use of an award term contract consisting of one base year and four option years, with the potential to receive an award of one additional year for each base and option year. A total contract period of 10 years can be attained if BAE meets the established award term criteria. Conversely, if award term criteria are not met, BAE Systems will not be awarded additional years, which will reduce the overall contract period. 

In 2015, the contract entered into its second option year, and the results by years end in terms of overall system readiness, cost savings and value to the warfighter exceeded expectations. 


“The unique and most important part of this strategy is that the competency of each organic and contractor organization is used synergistically to ensure expeditious and cost effective support is provided,” said Mark Smith, Product Support Manager for PM TAS.

By proactively reviewing incoming spare part demands, the PBL team realized savings in excess of $1.6 million. The teamwork has driven behavior to order only what is needed, resulting in approximately $479,000 in cost avoidance for 2015 and delivering outstanding supply chain service that provides 89.2 percent of critical parts to Warfighters within 4 days and 97.8 percent of all critical parts within 30 days.

“In addition, Field Support Representatives provide Soldiers and Marines in subject matter expertise on the M777A2, by providing guidance and training on howitzer repairs. They train Soldiers and Marines on how to conduct maintenance, which is much more valuable than actually performing the work for them,” Smith explained.

Additional benefits include seamless supply of unique parts, reduced logistics footprint due to unique spares held and owned by the contractor until delivered to a unit, and due to the contractor ownership, reduced risk of obsolescence of Government stock.  

A specific example of the PBLCS team response to critical issues occurred in February 2016, when an Army artillery unit informed PM TAS that wheel hubs on twelve of their M777A2s were found cracked during a field training exercise, said Smith.

“PM TAS worked closely with PEO-LS and TACOM to alert the fleet to this issue.  All USMC and Army units were directed to inspect their wheel hubs and report status.  Coordination with BAE was made, spares wheel hub assemblies were provided, and within half a week the Army artillery unit was fully operational,” he explained. 

“A failure investigation was initiated and the end result was a recommendation for change to a more corrosion resistant alloy for manufacture.  This change was implemented in December 2016. Excellent teamwork between organic and contractor PBLCS members resulted in maintaining operational availability of the fleet, recognizing the cause of the failure and required change, and implementing the change within the same year.”

Army Contracting Command – NJ, Tank and Automotive Command, Marine Corps Logistics Command, Defense Logistics Agency, Anniston Army Depot, and USMC Barstow Production Plant are important members of the Towed Artillery Systems PBL Team and provide critical support in sustaining the M777A2 under PBL.

The 2016 service winners will be recognized at the spring 2017 Office of the Secretary of Defense Product Support Manager’s Workshop followed by a formal presentation of the awards at their commands.