WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Defense is looking to commercially available software to help address supply chain disruptions, a growing concern as companies large and small deal with the continued fallout of pandemic-related parts availability issues.
In a solicitation from the Defense Innovation Unit, a Pentagon agency that fosters DoD adoption of commercial technology, the department is seeking software solutions to build new supply pathways for critical components and manage risk across key areas of the industrial base.
Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Bill LaPlante said this week during the Defense News Conference in Arlington, Virginia, that he is working on new guidance to help alleviate some of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic and inflation have had on supply bases, noting particular concern for small companies operating under firm fixed-price contracts.
“We want to keep our industrial base whole,” he said Sept. 7. “We want to keep them solvent. We need them.”
The pandemic isn’t the only supply chain threat the Pentagon is working to protect against. Dependence on foreign sources for semiconductor technology has driven Congress to take action to revive the U.S. microelectronic industrial base. And just this week, DoD announced it temporarily suspended deliveries of the Lockheed Martin-made F-35 Joint Strike Fighter after discovering the raw material used to produce a magnet in the aircraft were made in China.
“Threats to this industrial base are real and actively evolving, specifically for critical technologies,” DIU said in the Sept. 8 solicitation. “Reliance on foreign-owned or controlled hardware, software or services introduces opportunities for exploitation of a product’s availability, integrity, trustworthiness or authenticity.”
DIU’s call for software solutions emphasizes the need for analytic techniques that would allow the department to take in data from commercial, proprietary and government sources to develop computer models of supply chains. DoD wants to use those models to estimate costs, establish digital representations and identify risk.
Proposals are due Sept. 16.
Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s space and emerging technology reporter. She has covered the U.S. military since 2012, with a focus on the Air Force and Space Force. She has reported on some of the Defense Department’s most significant acquisition, budget and policy challenges.