Lead research officials from each of the services on Wednesday cited semiconductors as a critical piece to ongoing technology efforts, calling current supply chain vulnerabilities a “critical concern.” 

During a Senate Armed Service Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee hearing, each of the officials told lawmakers they have ongoing efforts to work on improving the ability for ensuring the security of semiconductors and microelectronics integrated on capabilities.

“Semiconductors are in nearly every piece of kit that we field to our soldiers and our formations,” Maj. Gen. John George, head of the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC), told the panel. “We certainly recognize that the supply chain is at risk and that we’ve got to be very careful to know the origin of the semiconductors that are going into our critical capabilities.”

George said CCDC, which is the research arm for the Army’s modernization-focused Futures Command, has a team tasked with assessing potential vulnerabilities in semiconductors on fielded systems and the Army Research Laboratory is working on new materials that could help support bolstered domestic production.

Fragilities in the semiconductor supply chain have been the focus of keen interest over the last several months, to include a new House Armed Services Committee supply chain task force aiming to add legislative fixes in the next defense authorization bill and the Biden administration issuing an executive order that included assessing the U.S. reliance on foreign production for semiconductors.

Rear. Adm. Lorin Selby, chief of Naval Research, noted that much of the semiconductor production has been offshored over the last several decades and his office is looking at future concepts that could also help to improve U.S. manufacturing capacity.

“It’s a critical concern. There’s obviously a vulnerability there for the supply chain as well as potential other vulnerabilities from the aspect of what can be done to electronics once it’s offshore,” Selby said. “I think we’re all working together to combat that, to come up with strategies, but the things the Hill has done over the years to help us with that is going to be critical to making this effective.”

Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory, said her team is looking to adopt new practices for evaluating the security of semiconductors and microelectronics, to include working on a new prototype that would meet the “very unique military needs and addresses a low-volume production capability.”