Defense Speak Interpreted: DMEA

With all the publicity about new semiconductor initiatives at the U.S. Department of Defense, I had lost sight of the fact that the DoD needs secure semiconductors for existing programs and to keep fielded weapons operating right now. How does the DoD get those secure electronics (and how have they gotten them for the past 20 years)? A June 17 article announced a supply chain award of $10.7 billion to eight defense companies for semiconductors [1]. And who administers this contract and keeps the technology secure? The answer is the Defense Microelectronics Agency (DMEA). This award is a near doubling of the 2016 procurement contract previously in place.

The Advanced Technology Support Program (ASTP) at DMEA could possibly spend as much as $17.5 billion by the end of this contract in 2026. The DoD has the task of maintaining weapons systems for 30–40 years or more and needs access to totally obsolete parts to do so. Many of these have to be uniquely manufactured for systems sustainment. The ASTP is for the “unreliable, unmaintainable, underperforming, or incapable electronics hardware and software.” You may say, “Re-engineer it or reprogram it,” when you hear this expense. That is much easier said than done for systems that must be re-qualified after any change in design.

The key to the DMEA mission is trusted access. This means that the DoD can obtain any required chip to keep its weapons systems operational. At the leading edge, DMEA has arrangements with state-of-the-art wafer fabrication locations that are qualified as secure. The whole supply chain for chips is audited and certified by the DMEA: broker, design, aggregation, mask data parsing, mask manufacturing, foundry services, post-processing, assembly and packaging, and testing.

Also, various fabs are qualified to silicon, gallium arsenide, silicon carbide, and indium phosphide. However, not all these are capable of state-of-the-art dimension resolutions, currently down to 32 nanometers in silicon and 90 nanometers in silicon germanium (more about dimensions in the description of the IBM/Global Foundries transactions later). The DMEA has its own small wafer fabrication operation at the McClellan, California, site (Sacramento). Fortunately, older chips used larger dimensions that the secure fabs can produce.

Having a secure source of ICs within the DoD dates to around 1990, when the National Security Administration established a wafer fabrication facility at Fort Meade, Maryland. Moore’s law dictated that a wafer fab needs to upgrade its capability every few years or fall behind in technology. This became increasingly expensive for the DoD, was abandoned, and that fab shut down. The DMEA was chartered in 1997, and its own small wafer fabrication facility in California was implemented in 2003.

Security administration at DMEA comes through the Trusted Access Program Office (TAPO). Continuing to now, the TAPO security program supervises the full fabrication sequence listed above. Today, 78 facilities are certified as trusted by the TAPO office for the various aspects of chip manufacture. The actual certification process is as presented in Figure 1.

fritz_fig1.jpg

Figure 1: Trusted supplier accreditation process. (Source: DMEA [2])

While DMEA audits the procedures for becoming trusted, the Defense Security Service (DSS) does the physical examination of the facility and its security. Actually, the chart needs to be updated to say DCSA; as in July of 2019, the security clearance of individuals was added to DSS, and the name broadened to Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency. But who are these DCSA people? A kissing cousin agency is the Navy Criminal Investigative Service—the NCIS of television fame. As if the 78 TAPO facilities were not enough, DCSA supervises the security of approximately 13,000 “cleared” facilities of subcontractors to the DoD and other federal agencies.

While the DMEA pretty well has a handle on the DoD chip needs for today, the crystal ball for the future is becoming much more clouded. The DoD and DMEA invested heavily in the IBM wafer fabrication facility in East Fishkill, New York, starting in 2003. However, IBM paid Global Foundries (ultimately owned in Abu Dhabi) to take over their chip production facilities in October of 2014. This included provisions for the secure production of DoD chips in “Fab 10” in East Fishkill. But Global Foundries has recently given up on developing the very smallest IC geometries (the nodes designated 10 nanometers and 7 nanometers just now). Global Foundries currently cannot manufacture below 14 nanometers at Fab 10 [3]. And, Global Foundries is in the process of transferring East Fishkill ownership to ON Semiconductor.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation (TMSC) and Samsung of Korea have initiated production for 7-nanometer geometries in the last two years. However, today, neither manufactures to this resolution in the USA. Recently, to add to the drama, TMSC announced that they would build a wafer fab in Arizona. Could that be a future high-resolution fab for the DMEA and DoD?

Conversely, could all the announced projects—MINSEC from Defense Research and Engineering, CHIPS being sponsored by Navy Crane, or the new CHIPS appropriation proposed by Congress ($50 billion)—all be part of the solution for DoD state-of-the-art IC chip security? We will have to see how the DMEA integrates into the operation of these new facilities once they are completed.

References

  1. G. Leopold, “DoD Microelectronics Office Boosts Contract Ceiling,” EE Times, June 17, 2020.
  2. DMEA, “DMEA Trusted IC Program: Trusted Supplier Accreditation Process Chart.”
  3. M. Lapedus, “A Crisis in DoD’s Trusted Foundry Program?” Semiconductor Engineering, October 22, 2018.

Dennis Fritz was a 20-year direct employee of MacDermid Inc. and has just 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.

 

Back

2020

Defense Speak Interpreted: DMEA

07-14-2020

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

06-16-2020

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?

05-12-2020

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?

04-14-2020

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

03-24-2020

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 Missile Defense Agency

02-25-2020

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has its roots in the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), known as 'Star Wars' in the 1980s as proposed by President Ronald Reagan. In this column, Denny Fritz provides an overview of how the MDA operates and describes types of missiles and phases.

View Story

Defense Speak Interpreted: What in the World Is MINSEC?

01-14-2020

The Defense program designated MINSEC (Microelectronics Innovation for National Security and Economic Competitiveness) is probably one that you have never heard of but will likely gather more headlines in the future. Dennis Fritz explains.

View Story
Back

2019

Defense Speak Interpreted: The Continuing Resolution

12-10-2019

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

11-12-2019

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

10-29-2019

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

09-19-2019

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

01-29-2019

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
Back

2018

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

12-18-2018

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

10-18-2018

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 © 2020 I-Connect007. All rights reserved.