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AFMC seeks to streamline test, evaluation processes

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFPN) -- If changes to the test and evaluation phases of new concept cars would improve mass production processes and reduce recalls, wouldn't it make sense for an auto manufacturer to spend $1 now if it meant saving $10 later?

Officials at Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command think so and are applying the concept to the command's test and evaluation mission. 

The need for change is one reason Gen. Bruce Carlson, AFMC commander, chose the test and evaluation enterprise as one of his four AFMC strategic areas under Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st century. AFSO 21 serves as an overarching program guiding continuous process improvement throughout the Air Force.

The command is one step closer to improving its test and evaluation enterprise, having completed the first Rapid Improvement Event here in August. Thirty-one people from AFMC and the Air Staff and four facilitators took part in the RIE, titled Early Tester Involvement.

RIEs normally occur over a three- to five-day period wherein attendees address specific problems and outline solutions. RIEs typically are identified as a result of value stream mapping efforts.

The recent RIE focused on how early tester involvement can help reduce overall weapon system life cycle costs, according to its team leader, Dr. David Jerome.

"AFMC needs a test and evaluation presence at the early stages of an acquisition program in order to help build testability into the program from the outset," said Dr. Jerome, who also is the deputy director of Air, Space and Information Operations at Headquarters AFMC. "Involving the testing community earlier in the program development would help to better define test and evaluation strategies for acquisition programs.

"This will benefit future acquisition efforts by having the right test capabilities -- defined as infrastructure, process and people -- in place to plan and execute developmental and operational testing more effectively and efficiently than we do today," Dr. Jerome said. "Ultimately, it will deliver effective and suitable weapon systems on time and on cost."

During the RIE, attendees identified Air Force program obstacles such as inefficient test design, late defect discoveries and incomplete developmental testing. These increase a program's cost and cycle time and frequently lead to operational testing delays.

Solutions that arose from the RIE include:

-- A requirement for testers to be members and advisors on the source selection team and participate in the source selection process. This should capture all requirements to plan and execute tests.

-- Identify a clear point during the early stages of a program to establish an integrated test team for acquisition program test support for programs at all acquisition category levels. This will help prevent late starts to key test planning events in the acquisition process, and help prevent unnecessary schedule delays. 

-- Educate stakeholders on the importance and value of early test and evaluation planning.
 
-- Develop, coordinate and implement a checklist outlining tasks and responsibilities for test and evaluation participants in high-performance teams and integrated-test teams.

The concept cuts across three centers within AFMC and the programs they test and support. These include:

-- Arnold Engineering Development Center at Arnold AFB, Tenn., which houses the Air Force and Department of Defense's largest aerospace ground test and evaluation complex. Together these test facilities aid in the development and sustainment of virtually every high-performance aircraft, air-to-air and air-to-ground weapon, missile and space system in use by all four of the U.S. military services.
 
-- Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB, Calif., which develops, tests and evaluates manned and unmanned aircraft systems in experimental and proven aerospace vehicles.

-- Air Armament Center at Eglin AFB, Fla., which serves as the focal point for all Air Force armaments. AAC is responsible for the development, acquisition, testing, deployment and sustainment of all air-delivered weapons.

The remaining four test and evaluation strategic initiatives are:

1) integrated developmental testing/operational testing; 
2) knowledge management of the test and evaluation information; 
3) causal effects of late defect discovery; and 
4) optimize test data requirements.

AFMC officials will schedule additional AFSO 21 process improvement events for each of these remaining initiatives in fiscal 2007.

(Courtesy of Air Force Materiel Command News Service)

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