How a new trade group is aiding the DoD’s desire for a trusted supply chain.

For decades the printed circuit industry has asserted the lack of government support has a deleterious effect on the supply chain’s ability to properly supply the US military. Attempts to correct this over the years have been numerous but largely unsuccessful.

Led by IPC, industry has lobbied the US Congress since the early 1990s to reduce barriers to winning military contracts, and, as margins were slashed beginning in the early 2000s, to fund research and development that could be shared among Defense Department suppliers to help their competitiveness.

IPC, for its part, has threaded the needle in terms of trying to support its domestic constituents and meet the needs of the DoD while not alienating other members that are foreign-based. It has provided support and advocacy to the Executive Agent for Printed Circuit Boards and Interconnect Technology, a position funded by Congress in the annual National Defense Authorization Act and assigned to the Navy. The EA’s role is to help the DoD access reliable, trusted and affordable PCB fabrication and assembly products, and facilitate R&D collaboration. In practice, it’s a politically intense position that comes with unwritten but very real limits on how hard the EA can push for funding and priorities. The results are clear: The US industry remains behind several geographical competitors in terms of capabilities and capacity. Moreover, as new edicts were handed down to promote greater security of IP, smaller companies, especially fabricators, have found it financially treacherous to remain on the DoD’s acquisition list.

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