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PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. (June 18, 2013) --- An organization here that develops software that operates in numerous weapons systems used by U.S. military personnel worldwide has attained a top quality rating that no other federal government organization currently holds.

The Armament Software Engineering Center has achieved the unprecedented rating three times in a row.

"There is no room for error," said Nathan Becker about developing software that performs complex data processing operations in weapons systems that use lethal munitions during military operations. Becker is chief of a branch at the U.S. Army Armament Research Development and Engineering Center that supports the development of weapons used by individual Soldiers.

The Armament SEC researches, develops and sustains advanced software products and services used by U.S. service members in Army weapons systems. Examples include the M777 Howitzer Towed Artillery Digitization, M119, Mortar Fire Control System, Lightweight Handheld Mortar Ballistic Computer, Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station, XM7 "Spider" Network Munitions System, M1096A2 "Paladin" and M1096 Paladin Integrated Management.

The Armament SEC attained a "Level 5" rating on May 22 after being appraised in a method sanctioned by the CMMI Institute using its current "best practices" model for organizations that develop products.

"I can confirm that the Armament SEC is the only U.S. federal government organization to currently hold the CMMI-DEV Maturity Level 5 distinction," wrote Darlene Moore, an operations manager with the CMMI Institute in a June 6 e-mail.

The CMMI model was originally developed by experts from industry, government and academia, with the Office of the Secretary of Defense as an early sponsor. The models are used by more than 5,000 private industry and government organizations, according to the CMMI Institute website.

The CMMI Institute also appraises acquisition and service organizations.

The appraisal evaluated the maturity of the Armament SEC's processes in relation to its organizational goals. "Level 5" is the highest rating for maturity an organization can attain. It is described as one that is "optimizing" according to a webinar on the CMMI Institute webpage.

"Optimizing means you are always finding ways to get better," said Larry Osiecki, director of the Armament SEC. "To get better you always have to be willing to take an honest look, be open to new ideas, be open to change. Undergoing that process is not always comfortable, but it is something that we owe the Soldiers who use our systems."

The Armament SEC attained equivalent ratings in 2006, as well as 2010, and will remain at its current appraised level for the next three years, even as it continues to work on recommendations made by the appraisers, according to Becker.

The critical nature of the software developed at the Armament SEC translates into a "little to no defects," mindset, a drive to meet cost and schedule estimates and an ever-present push to reduce the time between a warfighter need and a new software release. "Quality is the main focus," Becker said.

The focus on quality is why the Armament SEC adopts the "best practices" recommended by the CMMI Institute and subjects itself to the institute's rigorous appraisals, according to Becker.

Two appraisers from Integrated Systems Diagnostics, Inc. joined six ARDEC appraisers in a seven and one-half day review in May that included 13 interview sessions, 47 interviewees and reviews of about 1,800 documents.

The appraisals included reviews of recent work on Army systems, including the Mortar Fire Control Systems, Lightweight Handheld Mortar Ballistic Computer, M777 Howitzer Towed Artillery Digitization, M119, M109A6 "Paladin," M109 Paladin Integrated Management and Business Transformation Systems Hub Services, which is an Army Shared Services Center Enterprise Resource Planning project.

The appraisers looked at the Armament SEC's operations, comparing them with 431 best practices in activities that relate to an organization's performance. Examples of the processes evaluated include training, project planning, risk management, quality assurance and software engineering.

"External appraisals provide objective evaluations of our implementations and point out areas of strengths and where improvements are needed," Becker said.

The appraisal team provided improvement recommendations that were new to this appraisal and observed the implementation of improvements that were recommended during the 2010 CMMI appraisal, he said.

"This achievement speaks to what is right at ARDEC in so many ways--our desire to excel and reach our goal and the willingness to include different elements of the organization thus strengthening the enterprise." wrote Gerardo Melendez, ARDEC Director in an e-mail to the workforce. "These are all great characteristics of this organization."

In 2002, the Armament SEC became the first organization in the world to obtain a CMMI Level 3 rating in the disciplines of systems engineering, software engineering and acquisition.

In 2006, the Armament SEC became the first organization and only software engineering center within the Department of Defense to be appraised at Level 5 in the disciplines of systems engineering, software engineering and supplier sourcing.

In 2010, the Armament SEC became the sole government organization in the United States to be successfully re-appraised for Maturity Level 5 of the CMMI Development model.

The Armament SEC is an organization comprised of selected organizations with ARDEC's Weapon and Software Engineering Center and Quality Engineering and System Assurance Directorate.

ARDEC is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America's Soldiers.

RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.

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