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It’s been more than 800 days since the global COVID-19 pandemic upended the supply chains of almost every industry. Whether it’s a shortage of commercial and consumer electronics, or automobiles, businesses and their customers are bearing the brunt of what decades of offshoring and billions in foreign manufacturing subsidies have caused.
One sector that sometimes escapes the attention of everyday Americans is aerospace and defense, where high-tech platforms and equipment are essential to mission success. Our modern world relies on electronic systems, and defense applications are no exception. When a semiconductor is connected to a printed circuit board, amazing feats of engineering are possible. The PCB is the central nervous system that connects chips to everything from night vision goggles to next generation fighter aircraft.
Put simply, planes don’t fly, ships don’t float, tanks don’t roll, and weapons don’t fire without modern and trusted microelectronics.
Leaders at the Pentagon understand this reliance. That’s why the civilian and uniformed leaders have been calling for increased investment by Congress and other agencies of government. The Honorable Heidi Shyu, the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, has emphasized repeatedly the need for America to reshore its microelectronics manufacturing capacity. She and others in the national security space see the trends, and they are justifiably concerned. In fact, microelectronics are one of six “technology pillars” designated by DoD to invest in.
Over the past two decades, domestic production of printed circuit boards has decreased from 26% to 4%. In that same period, the industry has shrunk from nearly 2,500 U.S.-based companies to only 145. This invites unacceptable supply chain and national security risks. As we modernize our military and address global threats, policymakers should consider the following:
- A modern military must be a high-tech military. From electronics that our men and women in uniform wear into battle, to the precision weapons and systems in every military service, printed circuit boards make it all possible.
- Supply chain security is national security. To trust that military systems are secure and reliable, we need to trust where every component originates. From rare earth raw materials to the most complex platforms, we can’t afford to wonder who made it, where it came from or even if it will arrive on time.
The ubiquitous nature of printed circuit boards demands a secure and reliable domestic supply chain. The Printed Circuit Board Association of America was formed to educate, advocate, and legislate with this outcome in mind.
The members of the PCBAA are proud to provide technologies that contribute to our nations’ defense. If you’re interested in joining our effort, please visit us online or contact me directly.
This column originally appeared in the May 2022 issue of PCB007 Magazine.