Defense Speak Interpreted: Industrial Base Evaluation

What is an “industrial base” to the U.S. Defense Department? And wouldn’t we expect a “battle plan” from Defense, not an “industrial strategy"? Here, I’ll review the Defense Industrial Strategy from the January 2021 Report to Congress from the Acquisition and Sustainment section of the Department of Defense.[1]

This is essentially an annual self-analysis or report card to the Armed Services Committees of the Senate and the House. It involved the Office of Industrial Policy with special input called out from the JIBWG (Joint Industrial Base Working Group). This will, for sure, be the topic of a future Defense Speak Interpreted column. 

In the forward, the report states, “Today, however, that base faces problems that necessitate continued and accelerated national focus over the coming decade.” The four needed activities include:

  1. Reshore our defense industrial base and supply chains to the United States and to allies, starting with microelectronics, and restore our shipbuilding base.
  2. Build a modern manufacturing and engineering workforce and research and development (R&D) base.
  3. Continue to modernize the defense acquisition process to fit 21st century realities.
  4. Find new ways to partner private sector innovation with public sector resources and demand.

The cover says it cost “only” $159,000 to produce—truly a bargain in the Defense Speak world of billions of dollars. The report is 184 pages long (less than $1,000 a page to produce?). The stated goals are to:

  • Assess
  • Invest
  • Protect
  • Promote 

It contains 16 working sections ranging from space and missiles on down to materials and workforce.   

The most important section for us starts on Page 65, the review of the electronics supply chain. Section topics concerning “assessment” within electronics include:

  • Decline of Domestic Semiconductor Manufacturing
  • Counterfeited Electronic Components
  • Decline of U.S. Printed Circuit Board (PrCB) Manufacturing
  • Limited Domestic Capacity for Organic IC Substrate Manufacturing
  • Obsolete Technology
  • Congressional Action

Under 2020 Developments, it is sectioned as:

  • Mergers and Acquisitions
  • COVID impacts
  • New Programs/Initiatives

Sections under a “sector outlook” include:

  • Trusted Certifications
  • Strategic Competition
  • Emerging Trends/Technologies, with Figure 1 illustrating the advances required.

Figure 1: This table illustrates the advancements needed for Emerging and Foundational Technologies.

Lo and behold, “Advances in PCB and PrCB Manufacturing” has impact on every single Defense program in the future. Talk about preaching to the choir


But what does the report have to say specifically about printed circuits? It recounts the fairly well-known statistics that small- and medium-size board shop numbers have fallen 16.3% and 25.6%, respectively, due to closures and acquisitions in the last five years. Defense depends on the specialty products from many of these shops for applications in radio frequency, controlled impedance, and short runs of legacy products. These product mix characteristics may not be attractive to larger, low-mix, high volume board shops that are highly automated.

Trusted manufacturing is a new concern from Defense that works both ways for the small- to medium-size board shop. While it would seem that steady Defense business would be an economic lifeline for small and medium shops, there are emerging national cybersecurity regulations that may play against small and medium shops. This new regulation, Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), which I covered in my Defense Speaks column last year may be so expensive to implement that many shops will decline Defense work where it will be required by 2025. The Executive Agent is hoping to help the U.S. PrCB supply base to navigate these waters.  

The Executive Agent and IPC had worked together to implement IPC 1791 Trusted Designer, Fabricator, and Assembler Requirements. That has been revised once and is nearing a second revision—a fast moving process. This document is the only security document called out in the Supply Base report!  

Sadly, the Supply Base report calls out the lack of a U.S. manufacturing base for organic IC substrates. This $10 billion market for the most advanced board technologies is about 15% of the total world circuit board manufacturing revenue. Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and now China are the sources of these products, which are so very important to the consumer electronics segment—smart phones, wearables, etc. Sometimes these are called substrate-like PCBs or shortened to SLCs. 

The report does take a casual look at electronics assembly, where the U.S. is much more self-sufficient. Many Defense Primes have maintained their own assembly facilities, while they long ago contracted out their bare board requirements. At least four of the top 20 board assembly companies (by revenue) are based in the U.S. One specialty segment of assembly, Outsourced Semiconductor Assembly and Test (OSAT), is lacking in the USA. OSATs are the first packaging step for integrated circuits—taking bare die, bonding them with wires or solder to some metallic substrate, and then encapsulating them against the environment. This may be thought of as converting a bare die into a ball grid array, or BGA package. The report states the 75% of the OSAT assembly and 98% of the test is in Asia. This is not surprising since the U.S. is so devoid of organic substrates, also.   

Certainly, this analysis of the U.S. Industrial Base has far more content on printed circuits than I have ever seen. I am sure much of this is due to the data collection and reporting that the Executive Agent has done, and the credibility that the EA now carries within Defense. The proof this credibility will be the further award of Defense budget to improving the technology and competitiveness of the U.S. printed circuit supply chain.



  1. Report to Congress from the Acquisition and Sustainment

Dennis Fritz was a 20-year direct employee of MacDermid Inc. and retired after 12 years as a senior engineer at (SAIC) supporting the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana. He was elected to the IPC Hall of Fame in 2012.



Defense Speak Interpreted: Industrial Base Evaluation


So, what is an “industrial base” to the Defense Department? And wouldn’t we expect a “battle plan” from Defense, not an “industrial strategy”? We want to review the Defense Industrial Strategy in the January, 2021 Report to Congress from the Acquisition and Sustainment section of the Department of Defense.

View Story

Defense Speak Interpreted: So, What’s a JADC2?


The term JADC2 was prevalent in the late 2020 debate about the National Defense Authorization Act. It is a new way defense is using electronics to shape battle strategy. JADC2 is Defense Speak for “Joint All Domain Command and Control.” Sounds impressive, doesn’t it, but what does that mean?

View Story

Defense Speak Interpreted: Your Best Friend is a Skyborg?


Suddenly the term “Skyborg” is popping up in Air Force publications, and if you are an Air Force pilot, your future best friend may be a Skyborg. To understand the concept behind the term Skyborg, we need a bit of weapons strategy for the Air Force.

View Story


Defense Speak Interpreted: What’s a VITA?


Ever wonder how military electronics users could swap out circuit cards rapidly and keep their defense systems running? What about a “hot swap” of a circuit card that was questionable? How would defense depots keep enough unique circuit cards on hand to maintain the various systems in times of heavy use? The Department of Defense started to worry about those issues over 30 years ago and has helped private industry develop a highly sophisticated set of standards for circuit card input/output (I/O) to make quick change possible.

View Story

Defense Speak Interpreted: Intel Is Now Making a ‘SHIP’


Perhaps you recently saw that Intel was awarded a contract for a SHIP by the U.S. Department of Defense. However, this one will not float on the water since SHIP stands for state-of-the-art heterogeneous integration prototype. Denny Fritz explains.

View Story

Defense Speak Interpreted: Rad-Hard Electronics


Have you ever seen electronics described as “rad-hard,” or radiation-hardened, and wondered what that meant and how that was done? Did you like me just assume that “rad-hard” and “expensive” were synonymous? Did you think that this was a Defense Department term since they deal with nuclear weapons? Denny Fritz explores this and more.

View Story

Defense Speak Interpreted: The Defense Innovation Unit


Many of Denny Fritz's columns are about new defense technologies and innovations, but what about an organization with “innovation” in its name? Here, he describes the history and purpose of the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), as well as some of its programs.

View Story

Defense Speak Interpreted: Unpacking the NDAA


What is this NDAA stuff you keep hearing on the national news all the time, and why is it important to PCBs? Denny Fritz explains what is going on with the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes programs and lays out the priorities and policies for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

View Story

Defense Speak Interpreted: DMEA


A June 17 article announced a supply chain award of $10.7 billion to eight defense companies for semiconductors. Dennis Fritz explains how the Defense Microelectronics Agency (DMEA) administers this contract and keeps the technology secure.

View Story

Defense Speak Interpreted: C4ISR


Only the U.S. Defense Department would lump together seven concepts—command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance—into a single acronym: C4ISR. Denny Fritz explains how C4ISR has been called the “nervous system” of the military.

View Story

Defense Speak Interpreted: What’s an RCV, and What Do Electronics Have to Do With It?


In "Defense Speak," RCV does not stand for ranked-choice voting, a remote control vehicle, a riot control vehicle, or a refuse collection vehicle, although the second one is close; it stands for a remote combat vehicle. Denny Fritz explores this concept and its defense applications.

View Story

Defense Speak Interpreted: Why Is Defense Hyper Over Hypersonics?


Perhaps you have noticed that the term “hypersonics” is now a buzz phrase in a big part of the Department of Defense research effort. What does hypersonic mean, and why is so much work needed in this weapons field? Dennis Fritz explains.

View Story

Defense Speak Interpreted: Be Prepared for CMMC


If you are a current or future Defense Department contractor or subcontractor, you need to be prepared for the next cybersecurity requirements coming online during 2020. This is the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification, or CMMC, in Defense speak. Dennis Fritz explains how there will be five levels of cybersecurity requirements for various amounts of Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) you handle, with increasing requirements from one (least) to five (most).

View Story


Defense Speak Interpreted: The Continuing Resolution


The topic of the continuing resolution (CR) has been sneaking past other hot Washington topics, such as impeachment, candidate debates, and why the Redskins are so bad. Dennis Fritz provides an update concerning a CR and the 2020 fiscal year.

View Story

Defense Speak Interpreted: Executive Agent


After reading my previous column, you may have realized that electronics packaging technology development came from the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Crane, Indiana. One of its core responsibilities is the assignment of “executive agent” for PCBs and electronic interconnects. But what is this “executive agent” thing, frequently shortened to EA? Dennis Fritz explains.

View Story

Defense Speak Interpreted: PCB-related OTAs from NAVSEA Crane


In my previous column, I described how Other Transaction Authority (OTA) projects were speeding up the development of new technology for the Defense Department. Much of this improvement has to do with the speed of contracting and the less restrictive selection and payment process involved. Specifically, I would like to call out projects under the National Security Technology Accelerator (NSTXL).

View Story

Defense Speak Interpreted: Other Transaction Authority


DIU grants contracts under a joint OTA and a parallel process called commercial solutions opening. Most of the five DIU focus areas depend on electronics: artificial intelligence (AI), autonomy, cyber, human systems, and space. At the end of 2018, DIU had funded 104 contracts with a total value of $354 million and brought in 87 non-traditional DoD vendors, including 43 contracting with DoD for the first time.

View Story

Defense Speak Interpreted: DARPA ERI


DARPA ERI stands for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Electronics Resurgence Initiative. This tongue-twisting acronym is the latest Department of Defense (DoD) effort to catch up and surpass world semiconductor technology for the secure IC chips needed by advanced defense electronics systems.

View Story


Defense Speak Interpreted: PERM—Pb-free Electronics Risk Management


In this column, we explore PERM—the Pb-free Electronics Risk Management Consortium. No, the group members do not all have curly hair! The name was chosen around 2008 by a group of engineers from aerospace, defense, and harsh environment (ADHE) organizations.

View Story

Defense Speak Interpreted: Defense Electronic Supply Chain Issues


On October 5, 2018, the Department of Defense (DoD) highlighted issues with the release of the 146-page report “Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States” from President Donald J. Trump

View Story
Copyright © 2021 I-Connect007. All rights reserved.