Page 57 - IACC Newsletter March-April 2014 Issue 03

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have manufacturing ‘trusted’ chips for its critical defense systems. If the U.S. model sheds any light on potential defense
microelectronic trajectories in these two semiconductor plants, it might prove to be very little.
Like U.S. semiconductor plants, India’s proposed semiconductor plants will be run by private enterprises; and the
requirements of commercial semiconductor development do not necessarily overlap with those for Defense. In the U.S.,
total government consumption of domestic semiconductors was below .5 percent in 2000 (one can expect it to be lower
today), providing the government, and more notably the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) with little leverage to
directly influence the commercial semiconductor marketplace. Furthermore, given the extensive time it takes to field
new weapons platforms, from research and development (R&D), to production, testing, and finally fielding, the
semiconductors underlying those weapons systems tend to lag at least two generations behind commercial state of the
art integrated circuits.
Finally, the semiconductors that meet DoD requirements are often unique from commercial products, requiring
reliability, robustness, and at times radiation hardening to perform in highly contested or extra-atmospheric
environments. Despite these constraints, the U.S. has developed a program to help ensure that ‘trusted’ chips underlie
their critical weapon systems. India’s MoD will likely encounter the same clash of interests between their
microelectronic needs and commercial semiconductor production. The U.S. ‘trusted’ semiconductor program, could be
used as a potential model for future indigenous MoD weapons production.
While there are multiple components to the U.S. DoD Trust Program, the two main programs of potential interest to
India should be the Trusted Foundry Program at IBM and the Trusted Supplier Accreditation Program performed by the
DoD Defense Microelectronics Agency. In essence, the trusted foundry and trusted supplier program ensures that the
DoD has access to cost-effective, cutting-edge, low-volume semiconductors, which have been vetted for integrity during
the design and manufacturing phase. Through a contractual agreement with IBM in Vermont, the U.S. government can
ensure that part of the IBM foundry can be used to produce trusted chips for critical systems. Furthermore, the
government purchases the equipment and intellectual property (IP) of the chip design after IBM ceases to make those
chips, ensuring the chips underlying critical weapons systems against future obsolescence. At present, IBM is in talks
about potentially selling off their foundry, which presents potential complications for U.S. ability to ensure ‘trust’.
The Trusted Supplier Accreditation program certifies companies according to rigorous, pre-established criteria. These
companies self-fund the security infrastructure needed for accreditation, including security clearances involving security
personnel, data collection, and staffing to maintain their accreditation.
India will need to develop its own mechanism to ensure trust in the semiconductors underlying its indigenous systems,
but the parallels between current U.S. challenges and potential future Indian challenges are instructive. Adopting
various measures to ensure trust in defense hardware is essential to both India and the United States, and should
therefore be explored as a mechanism for deeper cooperation.
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