GEM program meets DOD requirements, does not compete with industry

In support of this country's warfighters, the Generalized Emulation of Microcircuits (GEM) Program produces hundreds of high-reliability part types that industry can no longer provide. GEM has helped to maintain the required availability levels for hundreds of weapon systems that have been used both in peacetime and in conflicts in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere over the last 12 years. Without GEM, many of these weapon systems would have experienced lowered readiness levels, potentially endangering warfighters' lives. Throughout this period there have been zero reported failures, hard or soft, of any of the more than 45,000 GEM microcircuits in the field.

Some concerns expressed in "Industry, DOD at odds over F-15 jet fighter parts reliability" in the November 2003 issue of Military & Aerospace Electronics are either misdirected, inconsistent with actual technology, or involve misinterpretations of the GEM Program. The GEM Program did not begin with the idea of selecting bipolar complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (BiCMOS) technology. The BiCMOS technology was the end result of a full and open (unrestricted) competition the government held for the acquisition of Microcircuit Emulation technology. There was no acquisition requirement for any specific processing technology. The winner of the competition simply chose BiCMOS for their proposal in their best technical judgment. Although BiCMOS came into vogue in the late 1980s, the early patents for BiCMOS technology came more than a decade earlier.

Assertions that GEM devices are susceptible to soft failures have never been demonstrated in many years of field usage in any weapons system. In addition to the F-15's cognizant engineering organization's response cited in the article, a former F-15 flight officer with many years of flight experience has indicated that there were no failures of the nature alluded to in the article.

The GEM Program marks its devices in consonance with both standard microcircuit and industry practices. Those advocating changed part numbers for GEM devices based on some perceived technology issue are ignoring the fact that semiconductor industry "improves" its fabrication processes continually without changing the part numbers. Indeed, traditional remanufacture of devices is challenging due to limited availability of original processing equipment and materials.

The GEM Program's devices meet all form, fit, and function requirements of the specifications they are marked in accordance with. The GEM fabrication line is audited and certified for compliance to MIL-PRF-38535. As part of this process, the required Technology Review Board, composed of senior experts from the fields of design, test, process theory, IC fabrication, production, and quality, takes its responsibilities to our nation's defense, the warfighter, the GEM Program, and ultimately the taxpayer as paramount. The GEM Program only produces and fields high-quality product and supports its product. GEM would never endanger our warfighters.

Finally, the GEM program is operated in a manner designed in accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation and the governing contract to not compete with industry. The GEM Program Office has instructed the GEM contractor to no-bid repeatedly when industry can meet U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) requirements. We consider all industry support to DOD an invaluable resource.

David G. Robinson
DMSMS & GEM program manager
Defense Supply Center, Columbus
Columbus, Ohio

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February 2014
Volume 25, Issue 2

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