Government, industry & academia partner to form Defense Electronics Consortium
DoD awards $42 million for consortium to identify, address risks in electronics industry
Feb. 18, 2021 (SUMMERVILLE, S.C.) – The U.S. Partnership for Assured Electronics (UPSAE) and Advanced Technology International (ATI) are proud to announce the creation of the Defense Electronics Consortium (DEC). This consortium is a collaboration of the country’s leading industry and academia experts to help the government identify challenges, needs and opportunities in defense electronics, which has been impacted by the contraction of U.S. electronics manufacturing and other factors.
USPAE received a $42 million award from the Department of Defense (DoD), which will be distributed over a period of five to seven years. The “Lead (Pb)-Free Defense Electronics Project” is the consortium’s first initiative funded by Congress through the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. While lead alloys are recognized as reliable, commercial electronics manufacturers have shifted to using lead-free technology because of lead’s detrimental health and environmental effects. This has created concerns related to supply and access to new technologies. Academia, in particular, will play a vital role in this project. Purdue University, the University of Maryland, Auburn University and Binghamton University are all lending their resources and expertise.
Enter the DEC, which was formed to tackle this initiative and other projects that strengthen the economic and force posture of the U.S. defense electronics base. The U.S. share of global production of printed circuit boards has decreased from about 30 percent in the 1990s to less than five percent today. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the extent to which the U.S. has outsourced the manufacturing of vital medical equipment with electronic components, raising concerns within the DoD about its reliance on foreign components.
The DEC is an Other Transaction Agreement (OTA)-based collaboration. The flexibility of an OTA allows for various types of projects to be funded within the consortium. The DoD is able to contract with trusted partners in industry and academia, including small and medium-sized innovators that typically do not do business with the federal government. By bringing in these non-traditional organizations, OTAs help government acquire disruptive technologies in a streamlined manner.
Consortia, such as the DEC, are partnerships built on open communication between government and industry. The government is able to communicate its challenges, and industry can leverage its innovative technologies to work together to solve these challenges.
USPAE selected ATI, the leader in R&D collaboration management, to be its partner in management of the DEC. The two nonprofits are an ideal match for this endeavor. USPAE is dedicated to ensuring the U.S. government has access to resilient and trusted electronics supply chains. The nonprofit industry association is responsible for overall DEC strategy, governance and member recruitment. ATI, the leader in R&D collaboration management, is tasked with DEC member engagement, financial controls and administrative services.
“ATI was instrumental to our success in receiving this award,” said Chris Peters, Executive Director of USPAE. “The team is professional, responsive and very knowledgeable – they’re really outstanding partners in this effort.”
“We’re so proud to form the Defense Electronics Consortium with our friends and partners at USPAE, who share our vision of achieving innovation through collaboration,” said Chris Van Metre, CEO and President of ATI. “The collective DEC team has the deep industry knowledge, innovative research capabilities and leading-edge facilities required to strengthen the U.S. defense electronics base.”