Realizing the Promise of IPC-1791

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IPC-1791, Trusted Electronic Designer, Fabricator and Assembler Requirements, is an electronics standard developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and industry to address some of today’s greatest risks to a trusted supply chain. The standard provides traceability and helps protect against counterfeits. In fact, IPC-1791 was specifically cited in the U.S. Department of Commerce response to Executive Order 14017-Securing America’s Supply Chains.

But to be as effective as possible, the standard needs greater support from the DoD. While it has been adopted by the DoD, it has not yet been mandated. IPC-1791 holds the promise to introduce much greater security to U.S. defense electronics and support the goals of the U.S. Defense Industrial Base.

IPC developed this standard as it does all its standards—with all relevant stakeholders in the room. For IPC-1791, this group included the DoD, defense primes, PCB fabricators and designers, and electronics assemblers. The standard was first published in 2018 and the latest release, Revision C, is slated for release this spring. Because this is an industry standard, electronics manufacturers continue to work with the DoD to maintain it and to address emerging security concerns.

Since its release, the DoD has adopted IPC-1791 as a standard available for use by program managers and procurement officers. But what does it mean to be adopted? It means that a standard has been vetted by DoD offices and is suitable for meeting DoD requirements. Adoption gives the standard visibility through its inclusion on the DoD online ASSIST database, which is a repository for all standards approved or adopted under the Defense Standardization Program.

DoD adoption of IPC-1791 was a significant step, but adoption does not place a mandate on its use. Today, IPC-1791 is not a requirement in the sourcing of defense electronics, which is likely to change in the future. 

The encouraging news is that in Section 841 of the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress mandated the development and implementation of trusted supply chain standards for PCBs just as the DoD had been tasked with regarding microelectronics. Developing supply chain standards for microelectronics has been a daunting challenge marked with more than one reset, but the opportunity to move quickly on PCB and PCBA standards is ripe. After all, the DoD has already adopted IPC-1791; the only remaining challenge is promoting use of the standard across the DoD.

While the DoD has not yet begun requiring IPC-1791 certification in its acquisition, many companies are already leveraging certification as a competitive advantage to win both defense and commercial business.

To read the rest of this article, which appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of IPC Community, click here.


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