It isn’t a high-profile battle, but those who know are aware that our armed forces are engaged in a perpetual war with an enemy that is, ultimately, unbeatable. That enemy is obsolescence. However, just because obsolescence is inevitable, it doesn’t mean there aren’t victories. Or one singular “VICTORY,” as the case may be.
Earlier this spring, scientists at the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) announced a prototype process for producing liquid hydrocarbon fuel from seawater. NRL’s proprietary process uses a modular reaction system […]
At DARPA’s Microsystems Technology Office (MTO), proposals are already being accepted for the new Supply Chain Hardware Integrity for Electronics program, aka SHIELD. The SHIELD program will be the DOD’s response to component counterfeiting in the supply chain and will include the use of a “a small (100 micron x 100 micron) component, or dielet, that authenticates the provenance of electronics components. Proposed dielets should contain a full encryption engine, sensors to detect tampering and would readily affix to today’s electronic components such as microchips.” The goal, according to MTO Program Manager Kerry Bernstein is to provide a chip that monetarily and technically deincentivizes counterfeiting, yet can be produced for less than a penny per unit.
Marvel Comic’s SHIELD (Strategic help Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division) and, slick as it is, it is more likely to wind up counterfeited than prevent counterfeiting
It is a program devised by a secretive government agency. Its purpose is to organize and motivate the top actors in their fields to come together to prevent crimes that threaten not only the economy but our national security. It focuses its attention on producing cutting-edge technologies. It is SHIELD, and it is becoming a reality.
No . . . no . . . not that SHIELD. That’s Marvel Comic’s SHIELD (Strategic help Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division) and, slick as it is, it is more likely to wind up counterfeited than prevent counterfeiting. We’re talking about the Supply Chain Hardware Integrity for Electronics Defense program being initiated by DARPA, and rather than placing a series of gigantic floating gun platforms in the upper atmosphere, it’s looking to place tiny 100 micron by 100 micron authentication dielets on all the electronic components used in Department of Defense programs.
“Proactively consider DMSMS through[out] a system’s life cycle by anticipating potential DMSMS occurrences and taking appropriate logistics, acquisition, and budgeting steps to prevent DMSMS from adversely affecting readiness or total […]
“Proactively take timely and effective actions to identify and minimize the DMSMS impact on DoD acquisition and logistics support efforts.” SD-22 DMSMS Guidebook The DMSMS conference is just around the […]
For players in the embedded industry it is easy to forget how large the problem of obsolescence can be, especially beyond the component level. Recently, I was talking to a software engineer who had spent a year doing software modernization, as a result of upgrading a flight navigational system from the original code to Linux.
The reasoning for the transition certainly made sense—the program was having difficulties finding software engineers who could continue to sustain programming that had been implemented during the early 1980s. While the system was incredibly robust and was considered “bulletproof,” it could no longer be supported the way it had been. Under pressure to upgrade, the program moved to Linux, which has a community that affords an active and growing resource for talent.
Saying that something is “good enough for government work” is often meant as a joke and the reference implies “mediocre work.” The irony is that “government work” is often highly sophisticated; systems are designed and engineered to operate in the most extreme environmental conditions for a very long period of time.
I recently had the pleasure of having lunch with a talented component engineer who has spent much of his career working in the defense industry. During the course of our discussion I learned that some aviation systems need ICs to operate in temperature extremes ranging from -55°C to 125°C; ground units often travel in harsh environmental conditions (e.g. fighting extreme heat and sand storms in deserts) while being exposed to hostile attacks; satellites traveling through orbit are exposed to protons and heavy ions from solar flares, yet must operate reliably in space.
Between Section 818 in the NDAA FY12 and the NDAA FY13 Amendment, the defense industry is highly aware of the risks of counterfeit components in the supply chain. As a rule, logistics teams know not to purchase parts off EBay but from authorized sources, or purchase directly from the manufacturer. They know about the SAE standards AS5553 and AS6081 for business processes and they know about guidelines for purchasing and authenticating components.
In general, defense sustainment and counterfeit avoidance has been left to DMSMS teams and logistics or engineering tactics. However, so far the solution has primarily been to develop standards, authentication and anti-counterfeit technologies. These responses have been critical, but have largely remained reactive and have not produced the dynamic collaboration crucial to maintaining a healthy, proactive supply chain. Instead, each player is left facing inward — focusing on solutions from their own particular positions in the supply chain — but without the resources to truly be proactive.