Our History

Sparkman & Associates, LLC was established October 2015, by its founder, Debra Sparkman, after a 40+ year career in research and development, government policy, and nuclear facility design and operations. Our company proved that ASME NQA-1 could be implemented in a small business environment and for research and development projects using agile methodologies. As our successes have been realized, our staff has increased in size and experience. Recently we have expanded our services to provide training courses for software professionals.

Client List:

  • Boston Government Services, LLC
  • Battle Energy Alliance, LLC
  • Corporate Allocation Services, Inc.
  • IEI-PEC Joint Venture, LLC
  • Link Technologies
  • Portage, Inc.
  • Washington River Protection Solutions

Our Team

Sparkman Pic

Ms. Debra Sparkman

Ms. Sparkman is the President of Sparkman & Associates. LLC formed in October 2015. Ms. Sparkman is a well-recognized software quality consultant in the nuclear waste processing arena. Prior to her consulting profession, Ms. Sparkman was the principle software quality expert for the Department of Energy’s Chief of Nuclear Safety. Ms. Sparkman joined the Department of Energy (DOE) in 2003 to support a Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board recommendation. In this effort, she developed DOE directives for software that either performs or supports safety functions in DOE’s nuclear facilities.

As an independent consultant, Ms. Sparkman provided assessment and recommendations for improvement of software quality and engineering practices for systems and facilities that include nuclear waste repository and processing. Ms. Sparkman established an approved American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) NQA-1 software quality program, including writing and implementing procedures, for a small business.

As a staff member at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Ms. Sparkman developed multiple independent test programs for high-integrity software, including nuclear applications, atmospheric dispersion-modeling, work-order processing, and research applications. Ms. Sparkman has extensive experience in software development across multiple programming languages and operating systems.

Ms. Sparkman has over 10 years with an American National Standards Institutes (ANSI) standard development organization. She was a key technical writer and contributor for commercial-grade dedications for computer programs and obtaining Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) endorsement for ASME NQA-1. Ms. Sparkman has held several leadership positions within ASME NQA, including Chair of the Subcommittee on Software Quality Assurance and Lead of the Special Working Group on Interpretations.

Ms. Sparkman holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from the University of the Pacific. Ms. Sparkman currently lives in the Washington, D. C. area.


Dr. Walter S. Horton

Dr. W. San Horton is a retired disabled Army veteran and a retired senior technical staff member of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (Board).  He has broad technical knowledge and indepth technical experience in nuclear Quality Assurance (QA), software development, Software Quality Assurance (SQA), combat simulation software systems, nuclear engineering, conventional ground weapon design and development, neutron detection systems, transuranic waste certification systems and environmental remediation technologies.

Dr. Horton’s key military command and staff assignments include Program Manager, Advanced Technology Program, US Army TACOM-a highly classified program; Chief of Systems Safety, Nuclear Weapon System Safety Group, Field Command Defense Nuclear Agency; Military Research Associate, Los Alamos National Laboratory—where he completed his dissertation work, Military Science and Chemistry Professor, Black Hills State University; and Cavalry Troop Commander.  Dr. Horton’s noteworthy military education includes the Defense System Management College, Program Management Course; Armed Forces Staff College; the United States Army Command and General Staff College; Armor Officer’s Advanced and Basic Courses; Ranger School; and Airborne School.

Dr. Horton served in numerous positions of increasing responsibility with Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC).  The notable software development and simulation software positions include the Deputy Operations Manager and Assistant Vice President, Division Manager, Senior Program Manager, and Project Leader. Other key civilian positions include the Deputy Integrated Product Team Leader for Training Systems Integrated Product Team for the US Army’s Future Combat System, and Director of Information Technology, Launch and Operations Support Contract, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. 

Dr. Horton’s expertise and technical contributions at the Board established him as an acknowledged expert in nuclear quality assurance, software quality assurance, commercial grade dedication, and suspect/counterfeit items.  He planned and directed the Board’s first Technical Knowledge Transfer Program. His multi-year program produced eight new nuclear QA qualified technical staff members, multiple QA-related work practices, and review guides for the technical staff.  Dr. Horton’s QA and SQA review guides became the Board’s standard for all technical guides.

As member of the ASME NQA-1, Quality Assurance Requirements for Nuclear Facility Applications, Main Committee and Software Subcommittee, Dr. Horton led multiple technical efforts to produce new QA/SQA requirements, clarify existing requirements, and author guidance that improved quality assurance and software quality assurance requirements and guidance for NQA-1 American National Standard.  He received award certificates from the ASME noting his expertise and commitment in improving NQA-1. In addition, the International Atomic Energy Agency solicited Dr. Horton’s participation in developing requirements and guidance for its standards

Dr. Horton hails from South Carolina where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Clemson University, and was commissioned a regular Army Armor Officer.  He earned his Master of Science and Doctorate of Philosophy in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL.  He holds two certifications Project Management Professional (PMP) and Certified Software Quality Engineer (CSQE). 

Dr. Horton is an avid outdoorsman.  He and his wife, Barbara, live in South Dakota and have two sons and one daughter.


Ms. Nancy Kyle

Over thirty years of software experience in government and commercial nuclear facilities. Professional areas of expertise include software quality assurance, software engineering, process control engineering management, information technology management, strategic planning, and change management, with experience developing, implementing and assessing programs and processes compliant with ASME NQA-1 (1989, 2000, 2004, 2008 w/2009 addenda), 10 CFR 50 Appendix B, 10 CFR 830 Appendix A, DOE O414.1C/1D, and DOE RW-0333P.

Performed numerous assessments of software quality assurance program compliance throughout the Department of Energy Complex and commercial nuclear industry as well as performing supplier qualification audits for DOE and NRC projects. Past Secretary and active member of the ASME NQA-1 Subcommittee on Software Quality Assurance, Past Chair of the Energy Facility Contractors Group (EFCOG) ISM & Quality Assurance Working Group Software Quality Assurance Task Group. Holds NQA-1 Lead Auditor Certification. Graduated from Southwest Missouri State University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science.


Mr George Lipscomb

Mr. Lipscomb has over 30 years of quality assurance, research, engineering, and operational experience which spans the nuclear and aviation industries, and the military. Mr. Lipscomb’s career began in the military where he directed technical projects for the Naval Research Laboratory, created software for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and is an IEEE-published author. Mr. Lipscomb is a retired navy and commercial aviation instructor pilot with 7000 hours experience. He also is a former member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission where he was a lead quality assurance (QA) inspector, expert witness, and licensing technical reviewer.

Mr. Lipscomb’s continues to develop QA training for software, cyber security, and digital systems, and is frequent conference presenter. He serves as a member of the ASME Subcommittee on Software Quality Assurance and has participated in IEEE, EPRI, and NEI software-specific working groups. Education: BS electrical engineering from the US Naval Academy, MS electrical engineering from the University of Michigan, and MBA from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.


Ms. Patricia Loo

Ms. Loo is a Senior Associate with Sparkman & Associates, LLC. Ms. Loo has over 30 years of experience in the nuclear industry developing and managing complex business and nuclear industry software applications. Ms. Loo is a well-recognized software quality expert supporting DOE- and industry-wide systems. She has provided numerous presentations at national and international conventions and received awards including the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Laboratory Director Award for implementation of a tailored approach for Research and Development Software and the ASME Certificate of Acclamation for Excellence for the Development of Part III, Subpart 3.2 -2.7.2 “Implementation Guidance on the Requirements of NQA-1, Parts I and II for Software Used for Nuclear Facility Applications.”

As an independent consultant, Ms. Loo provided assessment and recommendations for improvement of software quality and engineering practices for the restart of the INL Transient Reactor Test (TREAT) facility. Ms. Loo also assisted with the development and review of an approved American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) NQA-1 software quality program, including writing and implementing a commercial grade dedication (CGD) procedure, for a small business.

Ms. Loo's career began teaching high school mathematics and computer science in 1983. In 1985, Ms. Loo took a position at that INL that included managing complex business and nuclear industry codes and leading development efforts for applications such as the Occurrence Reporting and Process System (ORPS) and the Integrated Waste Tracking System (IWTS). Ms. Loo was the Software Quality Assurance Program Lead for 11 years taking responsibility for the implementation of comprehensive nuclear safety, mission critical, and operational requirements for software at the INL. Ms. Loo has experience in implementing ASME NQA-1, IEEE, and DOE quality requirements and holds multiple certifications including the ASQ Certified Software Quality Engineer (CSQE), IEEE Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP), and the PMI Project Management Professional (PMP). Ms. Loo is a member of the ASME NQA Subcommittee on Software Quality Assurance and currently the project manager for the update of the NQA-1 SQA requirements and guidance. Ms. Loo holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Education and a Master of Science in Computer Science from the University of Idaho. Ms. Loo currently lives in Idaho Falls, Idaho.


Ms. Debra J. Williams

Ms. Williams is a Software Engineering and Quality Assurance Consultant. Ms. Williams has 38 years of experience in the nuclear industry developing and managing quality assurance programs, complex software projects, network infrastructures, and cyber security implementation. Previously, Ms. Williams served as the task lead for the Energy Facilities Contractor Group Software Quality Assurance Task Group and a member of the National Nuclear Security Administration Safety Software Expert Team.

She is currently a member of the NQA-1 Subcommittee on Software Quality Assurance and successfully led the task to consolidate all SQA requirements in the 2015 revision. Ms. Williams has extensive experience in defining, implementing and assessing quality assurance programs and processes compliant with 10 CFR 830 Appendix A, DOE Order 414 and ASME NQA-1 (2004, 2008 with the 2009 and 2011 addenda).  Ms. Williams holds a Bachelor of Science with double majors in Computer Science and Mathematics from East Tennessee State University and Master of Science in Engineering Management from the University of Tennessee.