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15 Sep 21. DOD Taking Measures to Protect Nuclear Weapons, Space Assets. The Defense Department relies on nuclear-armed bombers, submarines and intercontinental ballistic missiles, as well as space-based sensors, to provide a strategic deterrence umbrella for the homeland and to protect deployed forces, allies and partners. However, sensitive microelectronics used in these assets could be vulnerable to high levels of ionizing radiation caused by a number of factors, including cosmic rays in outer space, severe solar storms, and an electromagnetic pulse caused by a high-altitude nuclear detonation.
To protect against these threats, the DOD has developed techniques to protect microelectronics used in satellites, spacecraft, the nuclear triad and the triad’s command and control center, said Rich Ryan, director for international programs, nuclear forensics, resiliency and survivability in the office of the deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear matters.
This protection, known as hardening, can consist of manufacturing chips on insulated material, redundant circuits, altering the design of circuits, and placing a shield over the microelectronics, he said.
Each of the methods used undergoes rigorous radiation testing in military and government laboratories to ensure they work in hazardous conditions, he said.
In the past, there was no central repository for identifying and accessing parts that have been certified as radiation hardened, he said.
On Sept. 30, the DOD opened a parts library to serve the department and other agencies with requirements for radiation hardened parts, including NASA and the Department of Energy. The cloud-based library is hosted by Nimbis Services in Oro Valley, Arizona.
Known as the Trusted Silicon Stratus Distributed Transition Environment, the authority to operate this library was issued by the Strategic Radiation Hardened Electronics Council; the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; and the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division in Indiana.
“The authorization comes as a clarion call that in order to improve supply chain visibility across the nuclear enterprise, establishing this microelectronics library is key to improving the ability to analyze key parts, their sources, and to facilitate government re-use of intellectual property throughout the DOD,” Ryan said.
The next step for the parts library is to test performance across DOD programs, he added.
“The parts library will enable closer Air Force, Navy and Missile Defense Agency collaboration on a variety of strategic system acquisition and sustainment programs — allowing them to better align requirements, technology development, production and sustainment efforts, and supply chain protection activities. By improving data-sharing and reducing duplication of effort, the library will drive affordability, advance technology, and reduce risk while protecting critical design information,” said Drew Walter, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear matters. (Source: US DoD)
13 Sep 21. New Program Helps Dual-Use Hardware Startups Accelerate Product Development. To stimulate and access hardware technology innovation in the private sector, the Defense Department launched a program called National Security Innovation Capital.
Located in Mountain View, California, NSIC addresses the shortfall of trusted funding from private venture capital sources for the development of new hardware technologies that have both commercial and national security applications, said Tex Schenkkan, NSIC director.
“This is an effort to protect against adversarial capital and ensure that our national security innovation base continues to be strong,” he said, referring to China and other adversarial nations funding and developing hardware for military use.
Less than 30% of private U.S. venture capital is invested in hardware companies, and less than 10% of that is invested at early stages where it’s most needed. In many cases, hardware startups were having to turn to foreign sources of capital, which left the startups vulnerable to the loss of their intellectual property to potential adversaries, he said.
The NSIC team identifies technology startups across the country that would benefit from government funding to develop dual-use products and bring them to market. NSIC funding allows such companies to accelerate their product development plans and reduce inherent technical risks, Schenkkan said.
NSIC funding and engagement attract additional private capital, further accelerating company progress to product launch and blocking future investment from untrusted sources, he added.
Since NSIC began in February, it has received $15 m in funding from Congress. It is on track to obligate all of those funds by the end of September. It has awarded prototype development contracts to companies in multiple technology areas.
Schenkkan said some examples include:
- Xplore is developing a high-power, ride-share-capable spacecraft providing the infrastructure to execute missions from low-Earth orbit to the moon and across cislunar space for commercial, scientific and national security end users.
- New Frontier Aerospace is developing a new rocket engine design intended for hypersonic vehicles.
- FuelX is developing a manufacturing process that produces a material for the safe storage and transportation of hydrogen.
- Advanced Magnet Lab is a company creating a manufacturing process that will result in a domestic source of novel, high-performance magnets.
- A company to be announced soon is building a domestic manufacturing facility to produce qualification cells based on a next-generation battery chemistry. NSIC is a part of the department’s innovation ecosystem led by the Defense Innovation Unit. Its streamlined contracting process leverages the Other Transaction Authority already granted to and utilized by DIU.
“NSIC is an important part of accelerating emerging commercial technology into the DOD,” said Michael Brown, DIU director. “Funding innovative dual-use technology to improve national security is critical in our nation’s strategic competition with China and providing the best technology for our military.” (Source: US DoD)
13 Sep 21. Global Posture Review Still On Track, Pentagon Spokesman Says. Even with all the churn in the world, DOD’s global posture review is still on track and will be finished shortly, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said at a news conference today. The review will determine if the United States military has the correct number of troops in the correct places.
“It is very much an effort on track,” Kirby said. “They are nearing the completion of their work. And I think, in relatively short order, we’ll be able to talk more about the global posture review.”
The press secretary did not want to get ahead of the deliberations, but there could be changes in basing of troops, ships and aircraft as a result of the review.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has called China “a pacing threat” for the United States. He said Russia is also being confrontational. But the threat from international terrorism remains — along with threats from North Korea and Iran — and must be countered.
The U.S. military mission in Afghanistan has ended, but the influence of terror groups that once found refuge in that country continue in other areas. Kirby said the terror threat from al-Qaida has metastasized out of Afghanistan to other places, including Africa. Austin himself said the United States will stay laser-focused on the threat from terrorism, wherever it may raise its head. Kirby said the United States will maintain its robust counterterrorism partnerships there. The Taliban once allowed al-Qaida to live, plan, train and operate out of Afghanistan. The Taliban is now back in charge of that nation. “It’s too early to tell what the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan is going to mean for terrorism or counterterrorism interests in Africa,” he said. “I just don’t think we’re able to describe that with specificity right now.” But the United States will maintain a watchful eye, he said. (Source: US DoD)
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