The Department of Defense’s one-year supply chain report focuses on addressing challenges in high-priority areas critical to operational readiness, including a central component in nearly all advanced military capabilities — microelectronics. Signed last month, the $54.2 billion CHIPS and Science Act represents a clear national consensus for the need to revitalize domestic capabilities for microelectronics, as well as a realized milestone in the Department’s strategic roadmap to address supply chain vulnerabilities in the defense industrial base (DIB).
Virtually every DOD system and critical infrastructure component is dependent on microelectronics technology. The same is true for the commercial sector; almost everything Americans use on a daily basis contains microelectronics.
“The need to onshore semiconductor manufacturing, as well as bolster research and workforce development in this critical supply chain sector is now,” said Dr. Christine Michienzi, Chief Technology Officer for Industrial Base Policy. “The U.S. cannot continue to be reliant on foreign sourcing for a capability that is key to sustaining current Department of Defense systems, as well as developing new technologies that are critical to national and economic security.”
The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition (OUSD(A&S)) proactively assesses and analyzes risk and overall health of the microelectronics industrial base, collaborating with sector leaders on DOD needs and direction.
In May 2022, the Department released its Microelectronics Vision, a joint effort between OUSD(A&S) and the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. In working towards obtaining and sustaining guaranteed, long-term access to measurably secure microelectronics, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has committed to continued investments that enable overmatch, increased operational availability, and support warfighter combat readiness.
“The Department will continue to invest in programs to secure U.S. microelectronics interests, reverse the erosion of domestic innovation and supply and establish a strong foundation for the next generation of microelectronics technology for DOD applications, while also sustaining current systems,” said Austin.
To that end, onshoring a significant portion of the microelectronics ecosystem will require a concerted effort by both the public and private sectors. In the private sector, large investments must continue to be made by domestic semiconductor corporations to expand manufacturing capacity. In the public sector, enactment of the CHIPS Act will increase capacity in both state-of-the-art (SOTA) and state-of-the-practice (SOTP) microelectronic technologies.
“State-of-the-practice is of direct benefit to the Department’s acquisition and sustainment mission,” said David Flowers, microelectronics lead for Industrial Base Policy who is based out of the Defense Microelectronics Activity in McClellan, California. “Secure access to these technologies is critical to sustaining multiple DOD systems and will benefit future systems and technologies, such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and 5G communications for use in both DOD and commercial applications.”
The Department is also investing directly in DOD-specific microelectronics capabilities using the Defense Production Act Title III and Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment funding. These include technologies such as Strategically Radiation Hardened chips needed for Defense nuclear systems.
The migration of microelectronics manufacturing to the Asia-Pacific region, and the subsequent decline in domestic manufacturing, represents a substantive security and economic risk for the United States and its partners. As Industrial Base Policy advances a whole-of-government approach to mitigate, and ultimately eliminate, these risks, significant industry outreach with members of microelectronics industrial base remains a priority. This includes discussion on technology roadmaps and how future expansion plans may be facilitated by and benefit DOD.