[Defense in Brief] DoD’s over-reliance on Chinese microelectronics is a national security threat: Official

The Pentagon’s over-reliance on Chinese-made microelectronics is a major national security problem that must be addressed, said a top Defense Department IT official this week.

The Chinese-manufactured technologies are critical components in a number of U.S. military and weapons systems, said Jeremy Muldavin, deputy director of defense software and microelectronics activities in the office of the deputy assistant secretary of defense for systems engineering.

During an executive breakfast in Washington, D.C., this week, Muldavin noted that the Pentagon buys 50 percent of its microelectronics technology from Chinese companies, which makes that a major risk to American weapons systems in a time of war. China could tamper with or even cut off those technologies, he said.

“If we can’t get them … in a domestic ecosystem we will be in trouble because what [China] can do is turn off the spigot,” Muldavin said. “We may lose access. … [That’s] not a hypothetical but a real threat.”

Currently, China is investing a huge sum — $150 billion — in microelectronics technology.

“China is thinking that they’re going to have leadership across all domains in microelectronics by 2030 and are really making big investments” to achieve that, said Muldavin.

That, he added, is in stark contrast to Pentagon investments.

“Unfortunately, developing advanced systems with microelectronics … is rare right now in the DoD and I think we’re really missing a lot of advantage that we could have,” he said. “We are investing less as a government … in this area.”

He went on to suggest a number of ways the U.S. could prevent itself from falling behind in the development of this technology and reduce exposure to Chinese-made components.

They include offering incentives for foreign investors in microtechnology inside the U.S. [source]

(Analyst comment: China’s newfound wealth is being put to good use in terms of bolstering its military capabilities, but also as a means of financing major investments in technology. Our reliance on Chinese-made components is an Achilles heel that the Pentagon should not waste any time in correcting.)

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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