NRC Committee on Manufacturing Trends in Printed Circuit Board Technology Recommendations


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The Conference Report (H. Rept. 109-702) to H.R. 5122, the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007, directed the Secretary of Defense to provide a report on the implementation of the recommendations of the National Research Council (NRC) Committee in Manufacturing Trends in Printed Circuit Board (PrCB) Technology to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.

A Principal Response Team led by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) and Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane Division analyzed, evaluated and commented on the findings and recommendations contained in the NRC Study to develop this response to the congressional direction.

The NRC committee made four recommendations:

1. The Department of Defense (DOD) should continue to use the existing manufacturing capability at NSWC Crane Division (Indiana) and at <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Warner RobinsAirLogisticsCenter (Georgia), as well as contractors currently providing legacy PrCB support.

2. DOD should develop a method to assess the materials, processes, and components for manufacture of PrCBs that are essential for properly functioning, secure defense systems.

3. DOD should ensure its access to current PrCB technology by establishing a competing network of shops that can be trusted to manufacture PrCBs for secure defense systems.

4. DOD should ensure access to new PrCB technology by expanding its role in fostering new PrCB design and manufacturing technology.

DOD concurs with comment on all NRC committee recommendations, discussing current and potential actions to address each one. DOD suggests establishing Executive Agent oversight by the Navy through NSWC Crane Division for PrCB technology to ensure that the recommended actions are executed so to sustain a robust domestic manufacturing capability.

Background:

The Conference Report (H. Rept. 109-702) to H.R. 5122, the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007, contains a reporting requirement that accompanies Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) RDT&E Program Element 63712S (Generic Logistics Research and Development Technology Demonstrations) funding for the Emerging Critical Interconnection Technology (ECIT) Program. It directs the Secretary of Defense to report on the implementation of the recommendations of the National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Manufacturing Trends in Printed Circuit Board (PrCB) Technology2 to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees by July 17, 2007. An extension request was granted and the new due date was established for October 2007.

DLA and Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane Division convened a Principal Response Team (Team) consisting of a diverse group of participants with a broad scope of experience, interests and perspectives from the following organizations:

* Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense

* Logistics and Material Readiness DUSD(L&MR)/SCI

* Acquisition and Technology DUSD(A&T)/IP

* Defense Research & Engineering DUSD(DDR&E)/AS&C

* Defense Logistics Agency

* Headquarters DLA

* DefenseSupplyCenter Columbus (DSCC)

* National Security Agency

* Defense Microelectronics Agency (DMEA)

* Department of the Army (AMCOM-Huntsville)

* Department of the Navy (NAVSEA Crane)

* Department of the Air Force (Warner-Robins ALC)

* Department of State

* Department of Energy (Sandia National Laboratory)

Introduction:

The Team set out to analyze, evaluate, and comment on the findings and recommendations contained in the NRC Study on Manufacturing Trends in PrCB Technology.

During the course of its investigations, the Team collected current and future state input from the electronics industry, solicited PrCB technology-related experiences and concerns from the Military Services and other agencies, and received input from congressional staff. The Team also evaluated a DUSD IP Microelectronics and PrCB industry health assessment from 2006, the February 2005 report of a Defense Science Board Task Force on High Performance Microchip Supply3, and a USG Integrated Circuit Supply Chain Threat Opportunity Study by the Institute for Defense Analyses4. The results of this review are as follows:

1. NRC RECOMMENDATION 1: The Department of Defense should address the ongoing need for printed circuit boards (PrCBs) in legacy defense systems by continuing to use the existing manufacturing capability that is resident at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (Indiana) and at Warner Robins Air Logistics Center (Georgia), as well as contractors currently providing legacy PrCB support.

DOD concurs with this recommendation with the following comments:

1.1 What DOD Is Already Doing

Facilities: The Department of Defense currently has four printed circuit board engineering and manufacturing facilities: an Army prototyping capability at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama; a Navy Production, research, and development facility at Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division (NSWC Crane) in Crane, Indiana; an Air Force production facility with engineering, commodity and production support at Warner Robins Air Logistics Center (WR-ALC) in Warner Robins, Georgia; and an Army re-manufacturing / reverse engineering capability (with fabrication conducted by suppliers) that addresses the needs of legacy system circuit board requirements at Tobyhanna Army Depot in Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania.

Capabilities: The Army facility predominantly supports in-house prototype development activities leveraging a small technical staff with limited process capabilities. The Air Force facility has a complete, although dated, set of manufacturing processes capable of supporting mature fielded products, with a production-focused engineering and technical staff. Both the Air Force and Navy facilities offer similar manufacturing capabilities in all areas with products ranging across most substrates and construction types (multi-layer, flex, rigid-flex). WR-ALC adds a limited ceramic capability, while NSWC Crane adds several state-of-the-art manufacturing capabilities with a technical staff supporting advanced manufacturing (current technology) and emerging technology development activities.

Business Models: The Air Force and Navy facilities continue to be used to sustain fielded military products when availability from industry is limited. Availability typically is driven by small quantities and incomplete technical data packages. The labor and materials for these specific manufacturing requirements are funded directly by DOD Program Offices. The burden for overhead, including manufacturing infrastructure and technical expertise, however, is determined by each facility. As a result, each facility's capital investment has historically focused on maintaining minimum essential manufacturing capability, without addressing emerging technology requirements. There currently are limited enterprise-focused strategic investments in advanced PrCB manufacturing capability. This lack of investment potentially could lead to a gap in PrCB organic capability to support the sustainment mission.

1.2 Potential Actions

The need to continue using the existing PrCB manufacturing capability at NSWC Crane and at WR-ALC, as well as contractors currently providing legacy PrCB support, suggests need for:

* Establishing an Executive Agent (EA) for PrCB's to monitor manufacturing materials, processes, and component vulnerabilities.

* Giving the EA responsibilities for:

- Developing a PrCB Technology Roadmap that assures manufacturing capabilities and expertise to meet future military requirements.

- Evaluating recapitalization and investment requirements of DOD facilities and develop funding strategies.

- Assuring continuing PrCB domain knowledge and expertise.

- Increasing DOD Program Offices' awareness of the benefits of leveraging currently available organic PrCB capabilities;

- Developing methods to assure the availability of needed technical data.

2. NRC RECOMMENDATION 2: The Department of Defense should develop a method to assess the materials, processes, and components for manufacture of the printed circuit boards (PrCBs) that are essential for properly functioning, secure defense systems. Such an assessment would identify what is needed to neutralize potential defense system vulnerabilities, mitigate threats to the supply chain for high-quality, trustworthy PrCBs, and thus help maintain overall military superiority. The status of potentially vulnerable materials, components, and processes identified as critical to ensuring an adequate supply of appropriate PrCBs for defense systems should then be monitored.

DOD concurs with this recommendation with the following comments:

2.1 What DOD Is Already Doing

Background: DOD currently is postured to address electronics supply chain risks in the areas of diminishing manufacturing sources for integrated circuits and discrete parts and qualified suppliers both of PrCB's and of integrated circuits and discrete parts. These efforts focus on end item availability and quality. They do not address, however, raw material and process vulnerabilities. While DOD has not experienced specific disruptions to date, the globalization trend beginning in the 1990's has increased this vulnerability. To mitigate these potential defense system vulnerabilities, future assessments and actions at the enterprise level should be broadened to address PrCB supply chain issues. This will require a more focused DOD-wide approach.

2.2 Potential Actions

DOD actions addressing NRC concerns may include a strategy to address supply chain issues and to ensure timely delivery of high quality, high performance, and secure PrCB products.

Specific PrCB EA responsibilities in supply-chain matters should include:

* Continuously and quantitatively assessing the vulnerabilities of the PrCB supply chain;

* Using existing DOD tools, such as DDR&E Net Assessments and DUSD IP Industrial Base Assessments, and new tools that may be developed, to monitor and assess the trustworthiness of the PrCB supply chain.

* Develop and execute strategies to solve identified supply chain issues.

3. NRC RECOMMENDATION 3: The Department of Defense (DOD) should ensure its access to current printed circuit board (PrCB) technology by establishing a competing network of shops that can be trusted to manufacture PrCBs for secure defense systems. In addition to being competitive among themselves, these suppliers should also be globally competitive to ensure the best technology for the U.S. warfighter and should be encouraged and supported to have state-of-the-art capabilities, including the ability to manufacture PrCBs that can be used in leaded and lead-free assemblies. To maintain this network of suppliers, DOD should, if necessary for the most critical and vulnerable applications, purchase more PrCBs than are required to meet daily consumption levels in order to sustain a critical mass in the trusted manufacturing base.

DOD concurs with this recommendation with the following comments:

3.1 What DOD Is Already Doing.

Background: DOD currently does not address trustworthiness at the PrCB level. The primary focus of DOD efforts in trustworthiness has been the Defense Trusted Integrated Circuit Strategy (DTICS). DTICS seeks to distinguish the trust features in integrated circuit (IC) suppliers, particularly by identifying and accreditting suppliers who demonstrate that they can mitigate threats to confidentiality, integrity and availability in the supply chain. The first accredited IC supplier was created through a partnership with industry to furnish manufacturing services for custom-designed ICs for secure defense systems. Additional suppliers have applied for and been awarded trust accreditation by DMEA.

Ensuring a supply of trusted ICs is necessary, but it is not sufficient to remove risks and vulnerabilities associated with populated printed circuit assemblies (PCAs). Extending the DTICS strategy to include PrCBs (and possibly other PrCB-mounted components) could mitigate the risks posed by tampering and counterfeiting. In this case, leveraging and extending DLA's existing PrCB qualification process to address trustworthiness is a feasible solution.

3.2 Potential Actions

Begin applying the DTICS concept to PrCBs to ensure that acquisition and sustainment activities obtain PrCBs for secure defense systems from accredited suppliers. Appropriate actions to accomplish this change include:

* Having the PrCB EA define trust requirements for modifications to the existing performance specification for PrCBs (MIL-PRF-31032)8;

* Having DLA, through Defense Supply Center Columbus, extending the MIL-PRF-31032 PrCB quality program to accredit trusted sources.

4. NRC RECOMMENDATION 4: The Department of Defense (DOD) should ensure access to new printed circuit board (PrCB) technology by expanding its role in fostering new PrCB design and manufacturing technology. DOD should sponsor aggressive, breakthrough-oriented research aimed at developing more flexible manufacturing processes for cost-effective, low-volume production of custom PrCBs. In conjunction with this effort, DOD should develop explicit mechanisms to integrate emerging commercial PrCB technologies into new defense systems, even if that means subsidizing the integration. These mechanisms should include more innovative design capabilities and improved accelerated testing methods to ensure PrCBs' lifetime quality, durability, and compliance with evolving environmental regulations for the conditions and configurations unique to DOD systems.

DOD concurs with this recommendation with the following comments:

4.1 What DOD Is Already Doing

The majority of the production and market of PrCBs is outside the United States; and as this outsourcing has progressed, the level of domestic R&D has dropped. The limited domestic R&D is focused on process efficiencies and not on developing new materials and new products10. Electronics products and technologies are focused primarily on high volume, short life cycle (2 years) products for consumer markets, whereas defense needs tend to be low volume/high-mix, long life cycle (15 years or more) products. In this environment, DOD will not be able to take full advantage of state-of-the-art (SOA) commercial-of-the-shelf (COTs) PrCB technologies and will pay more for custom low volume PrCBs. There is neither an economic advantage nor an incentive for these high volume manufacturers to develop and maintain low volume SOA PrCB facilities for DOD requirements and to develop new materials or processes for improved manufacturing of PrCBs. Further, OEM internal cost cutting pressures impede innovation. Currently, there is little incentive for large defense contractors to invest in internal R&D to improve the performance of PrCBs to compete for and win government contracts.

The Emerging/Critical Interconnection Technology (ECIT) Program being executed by NSWC Crane is the principal DOD program for the advancement of PrCB technology and processes. The ECIT program provides:

* a test-bed and transition path for new materials, processes, and equipment to meet military needs;

* resources to assist in the resolution of technical issues (e.g. Lead Free);

* a resource that is leading the transition of new PrCB technology to a network of PrCB and circuit card assembly manufacturers.

In addition to this program, DOD has Government/Industry co-sponsorships with universities R&D programs, called Focus Center Research Programs (FCRP), and with DARPA programs. Their objective is to advance the interconnect technology for future military requirements.

FCRPs are long-range microelectronics research programs at universities with the goals of providing early access to leading-edge technology and reducing the vulnerability posed by the migration of the electronics manufacturing industries off-shore. The Interconnect Focus Center (IFC) at Georgia Institute of Technology conducts research to discover and invent new electrical, optical, and thermal interconnect solutions that will meet or exceed International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS) projections and enable hyper-integration of heterogeneous components for future terascale systems.

DARPA has two manufacturing design and technology improvement programs involving the development of Interconnect Technology in the broader sense: "3-D Micro Electromagnetic Radio Frequency Systems" (3DMERFS), a PCB approach for recta-coax structures i.e. low loss mmW transmission media; and the "Scalable Millimeter-Wave Architectures for Reconfigurable Transceivers" program (SMART), a wafer scale mmW integration program. Other DARPA R&D programs in this area of interest are:

* Developing optical technology for implementing chip-to chip interconnects at the board and back plane level for military critical sensor signal processing systems;

* Developing and demonstrating wafer stacking processes incorporating high density interconnections in focal plane array (FPA) readout technology that will enable significant advances in the functionality of infrared systems (Vertically Interconnected Sensor Arrays (VISA));

* Developing robust 3-D circuit technology and design tools for producing high performance circuits that will have significant impact on the design of mixed signal systems and System-on-a-Chip for high performance sensing and communications for future military requirements.

4.2 Potential Actions

NSWC Crane will continue to execute the ECIT program. DLA will expand its "Material Acquisition: Electronics" Manufacturing Technology line in the President's Budget in FY09 to include an R&D thrust in PrCBs. Additional future focus activities that may be assigned to the PrCB EA include:

* Developing a technology development roadmap of interconnection technologies required for DOD applications.

* Performing Technology Readiness Level assessments for PrCB technologies

* Maintaining and enhancing the ECIT training center for both the defense acquisition workforce and defense industry so to facilitate development of future PrCB technologists;

* Supporting the development of improved manufacturing materials and processes by defense contractors;

* Transferring developed technologies from ongoing DOD-coordinated activities to domestic PrCB manufacturers of state-of-the-art products so to promote a competitive environment for development and delivery of improved technology products for defense needs.

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