Last week a friend of mine sent me this excerpt from the congregational record. Yes, That congregational record. If this doesn’t set your hair on fire then nothing will.
“National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018”)…”
“Executive agent for printed circuit board technology
The committee is aware of ongoing efforts through the Department
of Defense Executive Agent for Printed Circuit Board Technology
(PrCB EA) to develop and execute a strategy to address the
declining printed circuit board industrial base and gaps identified
in the 2015 Department of Defense Executive Agent for Printed
Circuit Board and Interconnect Technology Roadmap. According to
a PrCB EA industrial base capability assessment, between 1980
and 2014, the printed circuit board manufacturing base declined 86
percent from over 2,000 manufacturers to just 280. The committee
is concerned that what remains of the U.S. printed circuit board industrial
base is becoming less capable of sustaining the superiority
of Department of Defense systems and growing increasingly dependent
on foreign suppliers, particularly China. This poses a risk
to the Defense supply chain in terms of the quality and trustworthiness
of the products it acquires. The committee supports continued
execution of PrCB EA functions addressing trust, supply
chain, organic capability, and research activities, including the continued
development of a network of trusted suppliers and
leveraging the DoD Trusted Supplier Program to include PrCB designers,
manufacturers, and electronic assemblers.”
So, finally they get it. Now, they realize they should not have let those contract manufacturers play fast and loose with ITAR requirements sending a lot of their defense and aerospace printed circuit boards to Asia to be built. Maybe those defense contractors should have thought twice before demanding that all of the components in their critical mission products be the cheapest that money could buy regardless of national security. Maybe the U.S. Government should have protected the PCB industry a little more rather than leave them to their own devices to sink or swim. Maybe, someone should have realized that it never was a “level playing field” that while our shops were left to fend for themselves they were competing with Chinese and Japanese government supported board shops. And yes, maybe they should have held those defense contractors more accountable when it came to where they were sourcing their components.
Look, I know that this is capitalism and I know that we believe in free market. I also realize and support the idea that commercial products from garage door openers to coffee machines to Blue Ray players should probably be built offshore. That is just a product of a flat-world global economy. But mission critical defense products…are you kidding me?
For years now the largest CMs and yes OEMs, have been giving the DOD one specious argument after another for why they needed to buy their PCBs offshore. At first it was the line of bull that the PCB was too low on the technology supply chain to be an ITAR protected product. And then when IPC finally convinced them that this was incorrect and that we should be on the ITAR list, those same companies told the DOD there were no longer enough qualified U.S. PCB suppliers to meet their needs (Thanks to them by the way) so that they were going to have to go offshore to meet their DOD component requirements.
Not that the State Department has been much help over the years when on one hand they hold our feet to the fire in terms of secrecy and the much needed, I admit, ITAR protection while on the other hand they sell their completed defense products ITAR protected circuit boards and all to our frenemies whomever they may be. By the way the care to guess who our largest Arms customer is? Iraq! Yes they are number one! And our latest good arms customer is, coming in at number three are the Saudi Arabians the true founders of the feast we call 9/11!
All I can say is that it is not too late for our defense and aerospace contractors to act more like Americans than Capitalists and protect our technology and our industry with the same enthusiasm that they protect our borders. They need to stop buying mission-critical electronics from off shore companies; they need to stop trying to squeeze every last dollar out of our remaining board shops and they need to start truly partnering with those shops helping them to stay alive. And the State Department? Well, they need to stop selling our proprietary national security weaponry to the highest bidder regardless of their current status of friend or foe. Oh, and one last thing stop blaming the shops for not keeping up, the playing field has never been level for them, they have been fighting an uphill battle for years and they have been fighting it with no help from the parties mentioned above. It’s time to cut them a break, hell, it’s time to cut the U.S.A. a break and keep our weapons here in the U.S.A. protecting United States citizens.
It’s only common sense