Microelectronics are in nearly everything, including the aerospace and defense sector’s vast array of missiles, rockets, radar, ships, tanks, airplanes, and satellites.
And just like the semiconductors that run our laptops, phones and cars, those advanced chips and systems are largely imported from contract manufacturers overseas. In fact, domestic U.S. chip production has been in decline for decades as the sector’s factory floor has shifted to Asia. Today, the United States imports about 80 percent of the microelectronics used here, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association.
Recent disruptions in the supply chain for critical components, such as semiconductors, have revealed the problems inherent in this dependency. The global chip shortage has prompted automakers to reduce vehicle production. Phone and laptop makers feel the crunch as well.
The aerospace and defense sector is already attuned to this reality—at least those of us who design, fabricate, integrate, test, ship and buy microelectronics. Others are just now realizing that we are at a tipping point requiring action—such as strengthening intellectual property protections, boosting investment in the domestic supplier base and standing up more U.S. capacity.
If the repercussions seem distant to you and your business, it’s time to look at what's at stake and what's next, for our government, military and industry.