Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyTagged Content List

Globalization

Relating to the challenge of democratization of advanced technologies and efforts to protect supply chains

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It can cost up to $100 million and take more than two years for a large team of engineers to design custom integrated circuits for specific tasks, such as synchronizing the activity of unmanned aerial vehicles or the real-time conversion of raw radar data into tactically useful 3-D imagery. This is why Defense Department engineers often turn to inexpensive and readily available general-purpose circuits, and then rely on software to make those circuits run the specialized operations they need.
The general-purpose computer has remained the dominant computing architecture for the last 50 years, driven largely by the relentless pace of Moore’s Law. As this trajectory shows signs of slowing, however, it has become increasingly more challenging to achieve performance gains from generalized hardware, setting the stage for a resurgence in specialized architectures. Today’s specialized, application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) — hardware customized for a specific application — offer limited flexibility and are costly to design, fabricate, and program.
Scientific imagination is critical to our economy as well as our national security and defense. Research and development, as an expression of scientific imagination, is now a global and intensely competitive enterprise. This competition is heightened by digital and network disruptors that increase the speed and extend the borders of idea exchange affecting the nature and spread of threats and opportunities. Organizations fundamentally based on shaping the future need to leverage every possible advantage to succeed in this environment.
The integrated circuit (IC) is a core component of many electronic systems developed for the Department of Defense. However, the DoD consumes a very small percentage of the total IC production in the world. As a result of the globalization of the IC marketplace, much of the advanced IC production has moved to offshore foundries, and these parts make up the majority of ICs used in today’s military systems.
Next-generation intelligent systems supporting Department of Defense (DoD) applications like artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, shared spectrum communication, electronic warfare, and radar require processing efficiency that is orders of magnitude beyond what is available through current commercial electronics. Reaching the performance levels required by these DoD applications however will require developing highly complex system-on-chip (SoC) platforms that leverage the most advanced integrated circuit technologies.