As the Department of Defense (DoD) moves to keep its technological powder dry, a Pentagon agency charged with fast-tracking upgrades into U.S. weapons systems is nearly doubling the ceiling on new microelectronics contracts.
The Defense Microelectronics Activity, a branch of DoD’s laboratory network, last week awarded a $10.27 billion contract modification to eight vendors under a streamlined technology acquisition program. The award boosts the total for electronics engineering and manufacturing under the Advanced Technology Support Program (ATSP) to as much as $17.47 billion.
The microelectronic contracts were originally awarded in 2016 in order to address gaps in DoD’s electronic supply chain, including obsolete, “unmaintainable” or outdated hardware and software. The near-doubling of the contract ceiling reflects growing concerns over semiconductor supply chain vulnerabilities as trade tensions escalate between China and the U.S.
The new chip contracts extend through March 2026. The microelectronics office received nine bids and awarded eight contracts. Vendors include some of the largest U.S. military contractors: Boeing, General Dynamics, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman Systems and Raytheon Co.
The chip agency, based on Sacramento, Calif., also operates a program office to enlist and certify trusted electronic suppliers, ensuring access to current commercial process technology along with design, packaging, testing and fabrication tools and services. GlobalFoundries serves as the office’s trusted foundry under a contract that extends through September 2023.
The combination of a trusted foundry and a streamlined acquisition process that cuts DoD procurement red tape is intended to nail down microelectronics technology contracts in as little as six weeks. Those details include specifying engineering tasks needed to hasten technology upgrades. The accelerated procedures also ensure a steady supply of weapon components often produced in small and therefore expensive quantities.