Procurement Puzzles

While I’m pleased to see IPC is taking a stand in urging the US State Department to take a harder line when it comes to the potential export printed circuit board design data, it must have been cause for no small amount of angst in Bannockburn over whether IPC should be involved at all.

To bring readers up to speed, IPC seeks to make clear that ITAR covers PCB designs intended for defense equipment.

While it seems patently obvious that PCB data should be on the ITAR list, it puts IPC in the semi-awkward position. The largest PCB supplier to the US DoD is TTM Technologies, with about $170 million in defense sales through the first three quarters of last year. TTM’s largest shareholder is a Chinese national. And TTM’s COO is on the IPC board of directors.

So does IPC support the continued DoD drive for COTS products, keeping with the Perry Initiative of 1994, which some cite as the beginning of the end for the US PCB industry?* (COTS in effect forces prices to their lowest common denominator, which gives certain offshore suppliers a leg up on their US competitors.) Does it seek to aid the competitiveness of a major member? Or does it put the interest of the multinational members that want the lowest prices, regardless of the potential security risks? What about the potential risk to the US PCB infrastructure? Which of these priorities should take precedence?

*I don’t agree, but that’s a different blog.