Department of Defense Working with Private Sector on Secure 5-G Supply Chain

By Kitty Wang

Federal U.S. agencies have been banned from using Chinese 5-G technology, but the Department of Defense (DoD) is working closely with U.S. tech firms to develop its own secure 5-G supply chain.

Michael Griffin is the Pentagon’s Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. His year-old office is now tasked with supervising the development and integration of 5-G technology across Defense Department programs.

To do this, the Pentagon will be working closely with the private sector.

“The commercial initiatives in telecommunications far outstrip anything that we can do and would want to do at DoD,” Griffin said. “We are struggling to become the flea on the tail of the telecom’s dog.”

The Defense Department has offered bases and infrastructure to help tech firms experiment and prototype. Griffin said, “The development won’t be led by DoD. We will be looking to be good customers, but if we can help to enable that development, then we want to do that.”

China and Russia already pose a serious threat to the United States in hypersonic warfare. Developing hypersonic weapons and defense capabilities was the initial focus of the office when it launched last year. “Not just defense, not just coping with China’s offensives and Russia’s offensives in hypersonic, but I want to be the offense,” Griffin said. “We want to hold others hostage.”

In May, a senior U.S. Army official said a prototype of a U.S. hypersonic weapon has been finalized and is expected to be officially commissioned in 2023.

Rebeccah L. Heinrichs, Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute said, “The quicker we can have that deployed, the better we can dissuade an attack in the first place.”

The administration is clearly very serious about these initiatives, if budget is any indication. The 2020 budget request included $459 million—up from $148 million in 2019—for defense-wide research and development of “Trusted and Assured Microelectronics.”