The NDIA Trusted Microelectronics Joint Working Group enables government and industry to jointly address critical dependencies between microelectronics components, systems security and information assurance.The working group has been helping DoD and civilian agencies develop methods of acquiring trusted and trustable microelectronics, printed circuit boards, and other electronic components for Defense and security systems from a market that is now dominated by commercial buyers and foreign sources.
Virtually every system used for Defense and National Security depends on advanced semiconductor devices. Obtaining these leading-edge microelectronics, such as ASICs and FPGAs, that can be trusted is critical to maintaining the U.S. military’s technological advantage. As consolidations and the migration offshore of integrated circuit design and manufacturing capabilities continue, the defense industry faces increasing challenges to obtain those critical leading-edge components.
Recognizing the reliance on these devices, coupled with trends in the industry towards off-shore suppliers, NDIA organized a series of workshops starting in 2013 on assured microelectronics supply, and in May 2016 launched the NDIA Trusted Microelectronics Joint Working Group (TM JWG) to address the microelectronics issues that are impacting the Department of Defense’s access to the trusted microelectronics. needed to sustain its military technical advantage.
The specific goal of the TM JWG was to facilitate industry and government interaction in areas related to microelectronics supply to confirm areas of concern and collaboratively develop mitigation strategies. Such interactions are intended to ensure trusted systems for the defense and national security systems through an exchange of information and an interchange of views between defense industry, university, research centers, government and military representatives.
Organization and Results
The working group self-organized into four teams, each addressing a specific area of the issue:
- Future Needs & System Impact of Microelectronics Technologies, led by Charles Adams, Northrop Grumman Corporation
- Trustable Access to Leading Edge Technology, led by Ezra Hall, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Inc.
- Trustable Microelectronics Standard Products, led by Kenneth Lebo, Jacobs Engineering Group Inc.
- New Methods to Instill Trust in Commercial Semiconductor Fabrication, led by W. Pat Hays, The Boeing Company
During the study period, the TM JWG membership reached 80 participants from nine government offices, 28 defense companies,and nine non-profit and FFRDC organizations. The teams analyzed approaches to assure semiconductor availability for defense systems through strategy development, research initiatives, standards participation, demand aggregation, and future requirements integration.
The teams completed their work in July of 2017, and on August 15, 2017 the four white papers were submitted to Ms. Mary J. Miller, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, OUSD AT&L. A summary of the studies and white papers was also submitted, along with each of the final team white paper reports. (see Final Team Reports page).
As a result of its successful work and growing interest in this area the TM JWG is now being organized into a formal NDIA Division to continue its important work.
The four teams made the following key recommendations:
Create a U.S. National Semiconductor Strategy
The absence of a comprehensive national semiconductor strategy was viewed by the TM JWG as a major impediment to assuring access to critical national security technologies and to U.S. technological competitiveness.
Adapt DoD Acquisition Practices to Align with Commercial Market
The TM JWG’s analyses highlight the differences between DoD’s acquisition practices and commercial sales priorities. The TM JWG recommends defense programs be provided new methods to purchase technology on commercial terms after the commercial products have been evaluated for trustworthiness.
Increase DoD Market Influence
The DoD’s share of the semiconductor market has dramatically declined to less 1% of today’s semiconductors consumption, and the Department’s ability to gain access to needed microelectronics capabilities has correspondingly diminished. The TM JWG suggests actions that can increase market influence by exchanging research investment for access to commercial products; and, aggregating demand across DoD programs, other USG offices, and non-USG industries that have similar component and system integrity concerns.
Adopt New Trust and Assurance Models
The JWG’s analyses articulated the value of developing program-specific Trust Plans and Technical Implementation Guides to identify security measures for each step in the product flow from design through test. The Guides would factor technology-enabled mitigations and countermeasures into security requirements; the Plans could expand today’s Trust offerings by defining the boundaries for assurance spectrums or "tiers of trust" levels, and would cover component categories beyond ASICs.
Launch R&D to Achieve Trust / Security in Un-trusted
Separate from, but coordinated with, the national semiconductor strategic plan, the TM JWG recommends launching near-term research and development to address the security concerns of existing commercial technology capabilities, including Trusted 3D/2.5D integration, to leverage these capabilities for defense systems. Establishing a government focus to track future technology trends and impacts is recommended to continuously identify technology renewal opportunities and capabilities gaps.
Summaries of each team's findings can be accessed below:
Team 1 Summary - Future Needs & System Impact of Microelectronics Technologies Download
Team 2 Summary - Trustable Access to Leading Edge Technology Download
Team 3 Summary - Trustable Microelectronics Standard Products Download
Team 4 Summary - New Methods to Instill Trust in Commercial Semiconductor Fabrication Download