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U.S. Army Materiel Command: Five Decades of Ammo and Weapons Systems

When the U.S. Army Materiel Command stood up more than a half-century ago, a wide range of commands and organizations were producing and fielding ammunition and weapons systems, some with heritages going back to the Revolution. One of AMC’s first efforts, as Vietnam began imposing new requirements on the military, was to consolidate and streamline those entities to gain efficiency, reduce costs, and speed the delivery of vital resources to soldiers in the field.

That effort continued to evolve in the following decades, adjusting to meet dramatic – and ongoing – geopolitical, technological, and military threat changes. In most cases, research and development (R&D) was separated from production and fielding and, most recently, the commands that inherited programs of record added “life cycle management” to their names and missions.

As AMC celebrated its Golden Anniversary and the United States prepared for yet another sea change – from more than a decade of combat and intense focus on Southwest Asia to a new emphasis on Asia/Pacific and Africa – three organizations provided the bulk of the bullets, bombs, aircraft, and vehicles for the U.S. Army, as well as major support for the Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and allies.

MK 19 Automatic Grenade Launcher

A 40 mm grenade flies from the muzzle of a MK 19 automatic grenade launcher. The types and quantities of ammunition needed by soldiers changed significantly after 9/11. U.S. Army photo

The Joint Munitions Command (JMC), headquartered at Rock Island, Ill., is responsible for the manufacture, procurement, storage, issuance, and ultimate demilitarization of conventional ammunition for all the services and some non-Department of Defense (DoD) customers. It is also DoD’s field operating agency for the Single Manager for Conventional Ammunition mission, which includes the Integrated Logistics Strategy, Integrated Logistics Economic Strategy, Industrial Base Master Plan, First-In/First-Out, and the Logistics Modernization Plan. An Army Superior Unit Award cited JMC’s “ongoing efforts to support Warfighters at a moment’s notice through increased readiness, information dominance and horizontal integration.”

In 2004, an adjunct organization, under the same commanding general, was established at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., as the Joint Munitions & Lethality Life Cycle Management Command (JM&L LCMC). Drawing from elements of JMC, the Program Executive Office (PEO) Ammunition and the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC), the new LCMC was designed to integrate personnel, organizations, infrastructure, and processes to ensure effective management of conventional munitions for the soldier throughout their life cycle.

Once known as the Tank & Automotive Command, TACOM is now a formal Army word (and no longer an acronym) in the command’s most recent incarnation as the TACOM LCMC. Based just outside Detroit in Warren, Mich., its stated mission is to “unite all of the organizations that focus on soldier and ground systems throughout the entire life cycle.” TACOM LCMC components include the Army Contracting Command; Integrated Logistics Support Center; PEO Combat Support & Combat Service Support; PEO Ground Combat Systems; PEO Soldier; Joint PEO for Chemical and Biological Defense; PEO Integration; Army Tank Automotive RDEC (TARDEC); ARDEC; Natick Soldier RDEC; and Edgewood Chemical Biological Center.

The Aviation & Missile Life Cycle Management Command (AMCOM), headquartered at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala., was created in 1997 with the merger of the aviation component of the Army Aviation & Troop Command with the Army Missile Command (MICOM). The addition of LCMC in 2004 was designed to ensure an integrated, closely aligned organization under a single commander, responsible for the life cycle of all Army aviation and missile weapon systems. Or, according to the command’s mission statement, “to provide and sustain world class aviation and missile systems to the joint soldier, supporting national security and defense strategies today and in the future.”


JMC/JM&L LCMC – Bullets, Bombs, Mortar Rounds

F-100 Super Sabre

An Air Force F-100 Super Sabre fires a salvo of 2.75-inch rockets at a jungle target in South Vietnam, May 1967. One of JMC’s major achievements in the 1960s was increased fielding of 2.75-inch rockets to satisfy demand during the Vietnam War. U.S. Air Force photo

“We were always managing ammunition as a major commodity within the Sustainment Command. After 9/11, as the responsibility to support the soldier grew for both of us, we recognized the opportunity to divide those two businesses,” according to Trish Huber, deputy to the commanding general. “In 2005, we split from the Army Sustainment Command, whose mission also was changing, so the two did not have a lot in common.

“Prior to that, different ways were tried to manage ammo, so it was kind of trial and error up to that point. Today we are a separate, ammunition-specific major support command to AMC. The way we support the business today is having a number of industrial base sites producing and storing ammunition in response to soldier needs and different DoD scenarios, in a very efficient manner.”

Continuous improvements in conventional ammunition also have reduced the quantity required by soldier, she added – a significant assist in JMC’s role in ammunition logistics for AMCOM and other AMC and DoD components.

“Because we manage the acquisition and logistics for their ammunition items, we have a very strong relationship with the other services, buying what they want, storing what they need as the Single Manager for Conventional Ammunition, so there are ties from development through demilitarization, with each service having liaison officers at JMC,” Huber said. “We also have a security assistance organization here that handles all FMS, which has significantly increased since 9/11.

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J.R. Wilson has been a full-time freelance writer, focusing primarily on aerospace, defense and high...