The U.S. Competition and Innovation Act has caught a lot of people’s attention and in southwestern Indiana the center for technological development is at Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division. The land-locked Navy base has spent decades becoming the electronic and technological go-to for the U.S. Department of Defense.

“If you go back a generation to the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure Commission) of 2005, the leadership at Crane learned some lessons,” said Jeff

Quyle, CEO for Radius Indiana. “They found that they needed to become part of a growing field of expertise. It was things like hyper sonics, artificial intelligence, electronic warfare and Crane built up the expertise to become a leader in those fields for the department of defense. Our region does stand to benefit from those decisions that were made then.”

Radius is a multi-county economic development organization that works with Crane and the public and private sector to try and leverage needs at the base to create jobs and development in the region. Comments coming out of Congress on the bill by Senator Todd Young were welcomed.

“We have a national security imperative to ensure that we don’t fall behind the Chinese Community Party in our technological innovation, which is historically a key driver of our nation’s economic growth,” testified Young. “American leadership in science and technology, especially the emerging technologies that will dominate the Twenty-first Century, is vital to both the future of the American economy and our competitiveness with China. This legislation will help us lay the foundation for the private sector to harness the innovation occurring around the country, and will contribute toward the construction of fabs that will create the resilience necessary to compete globally, both economically and militarily.”

“This would be a positive,” said Quyle. “It would put the federal government in line to provide financial support to companies that will do all of the production, packaging and handling of the right kind of chips so that we know our weapon systems have trusted, radiation-hardened electronic brains in them.”

Hundreds of high-tech companies are already doing work for Crane. Some are large, others small, but they see the advantages that the law could have for the businesses and especially Crane.

“It will impact Crane. Having those foundries stateside will help build confidence in reliability and reduce counterfeits from overseas,” said Kory Reagan with Artisan Electronics. “I think it is important to have domestic production especially from a security standpoint. Having those manufactured

from a reliable source and that there are not malicious pieces included with those. That is an important factor.”

Increasing domestic chip operations could also help some of the companies developing new technologies become more agile.

“It also is better for the supply chain. By having the manufacturing on U.S. soil, we can get the chips in a more timely manner,” said Reagan. “That could cut down on some of the long lead times the businesses at Crane are dealing with.”

One of the companies working with Crane is chipmaker SkyWater Technology out of Minnesota. The company sees a lot of positive potential.

“The incentives offered in the proposed legislation present an opportunity for a growing chipmaker like SkyWater to accelerate their growth and increase their commercial offerings,” said Thomas Sonderman, SkyWater president and CEO. “SkyWater is proud to be able to support the mission of NSWC Crane in advancing new technologies for national security purposes as well as to serve as a secure, reliable, domestic source for chips. The proposed National Semiconductor Technology Center could serve as an enabler for faster development of the novel innovations being cultivated at Crane which SkyWater intends to continue supporting.”

The importance of Crane comes with the knowledge the people on the base have developed in technology. That knowledge can produce a synergy for development outside of the gate.

“ The ecosystem for research, development, proto-typing, qualification and scaled manufacturing requires collaboration among many stakeholders,” said Sonderman. “Whether or not USICA funds or anticipated additional DoD increased funding of microelectronics through congressional appropriations

leads to a concentration of these crucial functions in the Crane area, Senator Young’s unwavering support of both pieces of legislation will prove to have been directly responsible for bolstering the resources available to NSWC Crane and benefiting the local economy.”

“The base houses people who are experts on chips that are trusted and radiation hardened,” said Quyle. “Because of the very sophisticated electronics Crane works on they are one of the authorities in that field. And it makes sense that the industry looks at Crane and considers the area as a good place to perhaps have some investment from the private sector.”

Chip fabricating plants are very expensive. SkyWater is one of two domestic chip companies that have recently moved offices into WestGate, a tech park just outside of Crane that provides offices and work space for a number of Crane contractors. That does not necessarily mean a manufacturing operation will be coming to the area even with the potential from Senator Young’s bill.

“I think if Senator Young’s legislation does eventually pass, it would help with the construction of those fabrication plants because they are exceedingly expensive,” said Quyle. “I don’t know if there will be a plant in our area, but there could be some intermediate operations in our area for the handling and processing of those chips that could and should bring investment and high-tech jobs to our region because Crane is here.”
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