By Jorge A. Munoz and Mark D. Motyka for Army AL&T magazineJune 24, 2024

(Photo Credit: (Photo by Gustavo Fring, Pexels)) VIEW ORIGINAL

(Photo by Gustavo Fring, Pexels)

PM MAS team helps to update specifications for munition chemicals.

Military specifications—specs—especially for chemicals, are like cookbooks. They detail requirements, formulations, testing, inspection procedures and even packaging and labeling information. If not properly maintained, the specs become obsolete with testing and inspection procedures becoming outdated. These outdated methods make it difficult to impossible for suppliers to meet the spec’s requirements. This is especially true for new suppliers who often have no experience working with specs and their older methodologies.

The 2024 National Defense Authorization Act limits or—in some cases—prohibits the procurement of foreign-sourced chemical materials for defense applications, encouraging the use of new suppliers. The Munitions Chemical Specifications Modernization (MCSM) Integrated Product Team (IPT) at the Project Manager for Maneuver Ammunition Systems (PM MAS) Systems Engineering and Technology Integration (SETI) Division at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, has been working to help establish these new domestic sources through much needed technical updates to these old specs. This work is being done in collaboration with two groups within the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD): the Critical Energetic Materials Working Group (CEMWG) and the Defense Production Act (DPA) Title III Program, now known as the Defense Production Act Title III Executive Agent Program Office (EAPO). Together, these groups are bringing chemical production back to the United States, and new specs with updated testing methodologies are a critical enabling element.


According to Marta Pazos, Ph.D., the CEMWG is a group of experts from each service that conducts fragility and criticality assessments of the industrial base using data from surveys of industry, DOD databases, DOD experts and open-source data mining. Pazos, as lead of the critical chemicals portfolio in the Manufacturing Capability Expansion and Investments Prioritization Directorate, guides the strategic investments in such expansion based on the risk assessments of the CEMWG, the MCSM IPT and broader DOD community. These analyses are used to prioritize and pursue risk mitigations for vulnerable energetic materials.

Many critical chemicals within DOD munitions originate from unstable and, at times, unfriendly countries. Stimulating our commercial industry to produce these chemicals domestically contributes to making the U.S. less dependent on external procurement of critical energetic materials, while strengthening our domestic supply chains and economy.

A Soldier assigned to 58th Infantry Regiment trains on shoulder-launched munitions in October 2023 at Fort Moore, Georgia. The MCSM IPT works to streamline the process of acquiring chemical materials for munitions domestically. (Photo Credit: Capt. Stephanie Snyder, Fort Moore Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL


“The focus of the DPA Title III EAPO is the expansion of productive capacity and supply,” said Susanna H. Back, Ph.D., who represent the EAPO during acquisition meetings. “DPA Title III authorizes the use of economic incentives to develop, maintain, modernize and expand the productive capacities of domestic sources for critical components, critical technology items and industrial resources essential for the execution of the national security strategy of the United States.”

Back has coordinated several requests for proposals, or calls, to try to locate potential domestic producers of critical chemicals. If successful, the calls generally become three- to five-year agreement awards. Key to DPA Title III investments is the incentive for new domestic suppliers to share the cost of the agreements, creating a more robust and viable solution.

DPA investments, through DPA Title III authorities, aim to establish funding opportunities to create sustainable new businesses, or expand existing ones, that will be commercially viable and successful even during fluctuations in government ordering.


The main issue with chemical specs is that many are severely outdated and reference equipment no longer available or have test methods requiring the use of large amounts of toxic or hazardous materials. Prior U.S. Army funding and centralized initiatives to maintain nearly 400 specifications critical to munition performance have been discontinued.

Over time, this led to manufacturers, contractors and users of those specs to not be in compliance because they could not duplicate the old testing methods. What was discovered was that those contractors had transitioned to using modern, efficient and effective testing techniques. In addition, these new techniques often minimized or eliminated the use of toxic materials. This all led to the creation of the Munitions Chemical Specifications Modernization Program.

The criteria originally used by the MCSM Integrated Product Team to choose which specs to work on was the oldest specs corresponding to chemicals with the highest usage within the PM MAS ammunition portfolio.

During the COVID shutdown, organizations such as the Joint Program Executive Office for Armaments and Ammunition, the Critical Energetic Materials Working Group and DPA Title III program office took a deep dive to focus on supply chain issues, especially around critical chemicals. The CEMWG and DPA Title III program office began identifying specific critical chemicals and solicitating for domestic sources of these chemicals through its fiscal year 2022 and fiscal year 2023 efforts. The future U.S. suppliers of these chemicals would need modern specs to succeed. MCSM’s criteria for selecting and prioritizing specs to work on had now evolved to include the criticality of those chemicals to the supply base and tied it to the CEMWG and DPA Title III list of critical chemicals. 

The Munitions Chemical Specifications Modernization Program can trace its origins to 2012, when a magnesium powder manufacturer requested updates to two magnesium specs. At the time, one of the specs had not had a major update in 45 years and had recently been canceled despite still being needed for active munition production. The PM MAS SETI Division took up the challenge of working on these two specs and formed the MCSM IPT with members from the Armaments Center. Updating the magnesium powder specs was the beginning of the MCSM effort.
In 2015, the MCSM Program expanded to updating the aluminum powder and aluminum-magnesium alloy powder specs. In addition to being antiquated, one of the specs had not been updated since 1952. These two specs were selected because of the commonality of the testing procedures to the magnesium specs.
In 2019, MCSM IPT took on an ambitious effort of updating 13 chemical specs and began the process of prioritizing spec work. Then in early 2020 COVID hit. The mandate to telework ceased all laboratory activities, stopping the work of verifying existing spec testing procedures and developing new testing methodologies. This pause in work allowed the MCSM program to partner with CEMWG and the DPA Title III program office to focus on updating specs based on their criticality to the supply base.


When updating specs, MCSM follows the continuous process improvement methodology. This is not a simple rewrite; it is a total scrub of the specs requiring coordination with several organizations, laboratories and outside industry.

MCSM follows the continuous process improvement methodology by coordinating with other organizations, laboratories and industry to update spec requirements. (Photo Credit: Graphic by MCSM IPT) VIEW ORIGINAL

The Quality Engineering and Systems Assurance Directorate within the Enterprise and System Integration Center at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Armaments Center is the preparer of most specs. But it’s been a team effort that includes members from several divisions within the Armaments Center.

In the first step, MCSM reviews an old spec with input from industry. Industry days are held, and users and producers of the chemicals are invited to discuss the specs where, as a team, updates are identified. The event permits the issuance of specs that can be adhered to by chemical manufacturers.

In the revise step, specs are updated to MIL-STD-961 and any inconsistencies are corrected. Every testing and inspection procedure is validated by our chemists. If the procedures cannot be followed, then new testing methods are developed and incorporated into the specs.

According to Aleksander Y. Gandzelko, lead chemist in the Energetics Analysis and Propellant Surveillance Branch, “Over 140 procedures have been reviewed, 20 have been improved and 25 have been removed or replaced. Removal/reduction of toxic materials and safety improvements were not a primary goal of this effort, but it did come as a consequence.” Regarding lab safety, Gandzelko stated every hands-on procedure is carefully reviewed and areas found to be ambiguous or dangerous are reworded in clearer language, increasing its overall safety.

The final, implementation step occurs when all changes to the spec are captured in an engineering change proposal, which is then reviewed and approved by the Configuration Control Board. The board is made up of DOD stakeholders in the particular chemical and typically has over 25 members. Once everyone signs off on the changes, the new modified spec is uploaded to ASSIST, the official database for the most current specs and standards in use by DOD.


The Munitions Chemical Specifications Modernization IPT has completed updates on 12 chemical specs and is actively working on the remaining three specs of the most recent tranche. OSD funding became available in mid-2023 to help fund the expanding MCSM effort.

MCSM continues to be a key enabler of the DOD munition mission to support OSD domestic initiatives. The next tranche of spec work is being planned with a goal of 18 spec updates. Lofty goals are necessary to try to modernize the Armament Center’s approximately 400 chemical specs.

Many chemical specs are outdated or have test methods requiring the use of large amounts of toxic or hazardous materials. In MCSM IPT’s “Continuous Process Improvement” plan, chemical specs are tested and the inspection procedure is validated by chemists. (Photo Credit: Photo by Chokniti Khongchum, Pexels) VIEW ORIGINAL


The Critical Energetic Materials Working Group, the DPA Title III program office and the MCSM IPT complement each other in the strategic objective of acquiring chemicals domestically required by our munitions. This is accomplished by identifying critical chemicals, helping locate domestic producers for these chemicals and developing corresponding state-of-the-art chemical specs. It is in this unique manner that these three organizations, working collaboratively toward common goals, have become key ingredients that have formed an effective team with the right “recipe for success.” This will contribute to making DOD more self-reliant and less dependent on foreign sources for critical chemicals for its munitions.

For more information, contact Jorge A. Munoz at or Mark D. Motyka at

JORGE A. MUNOZ is the product and production process improvement lead in the PM MAS SETI Division. He holds an M.S. in management from the Florida Institute of Technology and a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He holds a Black Belt certification in Lean Six Sigma.

MARK D. MOTYKA is the senior technical adviser for the Pyrotechnics Technology Division. He holds a Master of Systems Engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering from the University of Delaware. He holds a Green Belt certification in Lean Six Sigma.

Read the full article in the Spring 2024 issue of Army AL&T magazine.
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