Years Of Contributing To The Nation's Defense
May 14, 2010
- "I've always been impressed by his knowledge, his personality and his interest in creating the finest software engineering operation."
- "Our number one priority is building products that Soldiers can use and that they want to use ... We've built our reputation on that."
- "As a customer-funded organization, we have to satisfy our customer. If we don't, then we don't get paid and we don't grow our reputation."
- "There is a lot of technology in the commercial field that pushes us to higher capabilities in the defense field."
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- When Dr. Bill Craig looked over the long list of previous Medaris Award winners, he could hardly believe his name would be among them.
That list of names includes Lt. Gen. Jim Link, Brig. Gen. Bob Drolet, Sen. Richard Shelby, Sen. Howell Heflin, Dr. Bill McCorkle and 2009 winner retired Maj. Gen. Jim Snider.
And now it includes Bill Craig.
"I'm overwhelmed with a feeling of insufficiency and humility," said the longtime director of the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center's Software Engineering Directorate as he pointed to a bookmark listing Medaris Award winners.
"These are accomplished individuals and notable civilians. I question whether I belong on that list."
But there is no question in the minds of the leadership within the Tennessee Valley chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association that Craig meets the Medaris Award's standard of recognizing an "outstanding individual who has made a significant contribution or series of contributions over many years to the technical progress of the national defense industrial base."
The chapter presented the award to Craig at its annual awards dinner April 29 at the Huntsville Marriott.
"I've always been impressed by his knowledge, his personality and his interest in creating the finest software engineering operation possible," said retired Col. Ed Stone, the chapter's president. "It is very important I believe to recognize that almost everything we use in our national defense has some connection to software engineering."
Under Craig's leadership, the Software Engineering Directorate has developed ways to work closely with its customers to develop software systems in support of a wide range of military products.
In the case of aircraft, air crews depend on the "quality and performance of their software assisted flight controls," Stone said. "It is through the capabilities that Dr. Craig has developed that his team can interact with actual flight crews (his customers), learn about their needs, then develop and test software in the lab that the crews can simulate, and when the crews are satisfied, after final engineering approvals, then export the software into the cockpits of mission aircraft.
"Imagine, the crews no longer have to guess what will happen with software changes. They now can directly influence it. And Bill Craig and his team made that a reality."
Craig, a 50-year employee of Redstone Arsenal, has overseen the accomplishments and customer growth of SED as its director since 1988.
"I believe my selection was symbolic for this organization, not for me," Craig said. "I'm perfectly happy to not want the credit to come to me. I like to see my employees get the credit. If they are recognized, then what I've done is recognized, too. I'm proud of them and want to see them excel."
A Mississippi State electrical engineering graduate, Craig began his career in 1960 at Redstone Arsenal. He was among many engineers hired by the Army to replace those who transferred with Dr. Wernher von Braun to the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration/Marshall Space Flight Center.
"I started out in the test world the year NASA was formed. Gen. John Medaris (commander of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency at Redstone Arsenal) had retired five months before I got here," Craig said. "I was hired by the Army because NASA was able to have most of the work force transferred to them. I worked on instrumentation and I got to test fire different missiles.
"I never thought about going with Dr. von Braun to NASA because the Army had a lot of opportunities. It was an organization that was growing. It was almost like working for a new start up."
He worked in von Braun's Astrionics Laboratory before moving to the Army Ballistic Missile Defense Agency in 1970. He became a charter member to the then Army Missile Command's Missile System Software Center when it was established in 1975. In 1984, it became the Battlefield Automation Management Directorate and was renamed SED in 1989, one year after Craig assumed the director responsibilities.
"I grew into the job and the job has grown, too, significantly," Craig said.
"Our number one priority is building products that Soldiers can use and that they want to use. We build them to withstand the environment, and to be affordable and maintainable. We've built our reputation on that."
As the Army and other military branches grew their dependency on software for missile and aviation systems, so, too, did SED grow. In 2003, it became part of the Army's newly formed Research Development and Engineering Command. It attained a Level 4 rating against the Software Engineering Institute's Software Capability Maturity Model in 2000, and been named as one of only three Life Cycle Software Engineering Centers in the Army. SED provides software and systems engineering support for the Army's major weapon and aviation systems.
Under Craig's leadership, SED has been involved in the development and fielding of numerous Army systems, including the Joint Battle Command-Platform and the Aviation Mission Planning System. SED, in partnership with program executive offices and program managers, has established numerous Aviation and Missile System Integration Laboratories for the analysis and test of tactical systems and software. These laboratories provide the capability for Joint Services Interoperability Certification as well as Intra-Army certification. The organization also is responsible for development and deployment of the America's Army software program that includes a public game, weapon systems trainers and Army recruiting applications.
"This has always been an exciting place to work," Craig said. "I regret that people don't get to see what we do out here. It's an awesome place to be and to contribute to the war fighter. This entire Redstone community makes a disproportionate contribution based on its size to the defense of this nation."
Today, SED is a customer-funded organization with an annual budget of more than $400 million. It employs 320 Army civilians and 1,500 to 1,600 contractors. Its customers include all branches of the military.
"We are on the cutting edge of technology," Craig said. "As a customer-funded organization, we have to satisfy our customer. If we don't, then we don't get paid and we don't grow our reputation. It is a great incentive.
"We are also motivated to make sure our engineers and scientists have work that is challenging and interesting to them. If they're not challenged, they're not going to be happy and they will go elsewhere to work."
Recent projects for SED include developing a software system for the Navy for use in the presidential helicopter and developing software for the Army's Blue Force Tracker along with the constant need to upgrade software systems for missile and aviation systems and trainers. SED is also active in the growing field of information assurance.
"When we fielded the Pershing 2 in 1983, we had less than 100,000 lines of code for the front line system," Craig said. "More recently, when we built the Aviation Mission Planning System that all cockpit crews use to plan their flight, we worked with 7 million lines of code.
"The processing power of the industry keeps improving. There is a lot of technology in the commercial field that pushes us to higher capabilities in the defense field."
As a government organization, SED has been able to impact its own bottom line by developing a common area of software for use in multiple systems. It also relies on its employees to develop new capabilities and customers.
"I like to give employees the opportunity to choose what to do," he said. "By and large, employees want to do good work. I like to let everybody use their talents to the best of their ability. We give them as much choice as they want and if they want to do something more or different, they can pursue it. We have such a broad spectrum of work that they have a lot they can take advantage of."
SED collaborates with a number of other organizations/agencies, including the Space and Missile Defense Command for cyber security, Jackson State University for homeland security, and as a technology transition partner with the Software Engineering Institute.
SED has made significant progress in work force development, in partnership with the University of Alabama-Huntsville, including a co-op program, and advanced degrees in Software Engineering and Systems Engineering. These opportunities allow the expansion and growth of the SED work force to remain relevant in the complex digital world, Craig said.
The organization also takes its own role to educate seriously. It offers tours of its facilities and programs to allow school children, community groups and military-related groups to see the work they are doing to develop software systems for Soldiers. About 100 groups go through SED facilities near the Redstone Airfield every year.
Besides the Medaris Award, the local NDIA chapter gave out other awards on April 30 recognizing leadership, management and technology excellence.
Leadership Excellence awards were presented to Gina Gilbertson, deputy director for Test, Ground-based Midcourse Defense Joint Program, Missile Defense Agency; Julia Williams, civilian operations research senior manager for the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command; and James McCullough, dean of the South Region, Defense Acquisition University.
Management awards were presented to Melissa Garber, Ground-Based Midcourse Defense simulation product lead, Missile Defense Agency; Jerry Esquibel, senior manager and engineer, Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command; and Perry Gray of ERC Inc., Marshall Space Flight Center's Materials and Processes Laboratory.
Technology awards were presented to Col. Paul Hill, product manager and deputy project manager for deployment and integration, Sensors Directorate, Missile Defense Agency; Michael Lee, senior supervisory general engineer, Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command; Harry Schramm, technology development, Marshall Space Flight Center; Norris Luce, president and co-owner of Macro Industries Inc.
NDIA also presented $1,000 scholarships to the following college students:
Aca,!Ac Alabama A&M University -- Larry Shealey, electrical engineering; Justin Colar, civil engineering; Adeola Odutola, electric engineering; Regina Williams, chemistry; and Jarrell Auberry, logistics;
Aca,!Ac University of Alabama-Huntsville -- Michael Wilke, physics; Noemi Torres, computer science; Angela Mitchell, mechanical engineering; Kathryn Crowe; Mark Hull, supply chain; and Rose Long, logistics.
NDIA presented a special award to UAH freshmen Kyle Roden and Robyn Ciliax for the best freshman engineering design in UAH's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
The winning design was a solar panel optimization system to compare relative light intensity from all directions and continuously rotate apparatus under servo control toward the most intense light source. The scope of the project included the design and implementation of the electronic circuit, software program for the micro-controller, and the mechanical movement for the apparatus.