Pentagon to accelerate Adoption of Additive Manufacturing amid Cybersecurity Concerns

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Adoption of Additive Manufacturing
Above: United States Department of Defence headquarters Pentagon/Image Source: U.S. DoD

The United States Department of Defence officials want to accelerate the adoption of additive manufacturing to solve frontline and logistical challenges alike under a recent policy change, even as the department’s watchdog raises new concerns about how the military secures its 3D printing systems.

In June, DoD issued its first additive manufacturing policy. The publication follows closely on the heels of DoD’s first-ever additive manufacturing (AM) strategy, released in January.

Adoption of Additive Manufacturing

3D Printed Metal Bracket
Above: 3D printing the bracket will make it easier for C-130J maintenance units across the Air Force to obtain the part and eliminate the need to manufacture the part themselves/Image Credit: U.S. Air Force – Airman 1st Class Jayden Ford

The new policy lays out roles and responsibilities for adoption of additive manufacturing through the department. It states DoD will use the practice to “support joint force commanders and [combatant command] theater requirements, transform maintenance operations and supply chains, increase logistics resiliency, and improve self-sustainment and readiness for the military services.”

 “DoD wants to align the department’s various additive manufacturing activities to accelerate the technology’s use throughout the military. [AM] has been around for a long time, but as it’s being utilized today, it’s cutting edge technology. It’s distributed and accessible through its smaller footprint, and it’s lower cost. It’s innovative, allowing us to create new designs like we’ve never seen before. And it allows us to iterate and prototype more quickly, supporting rapid design cycles.”

– Tracy Frost, director of DoD’s Manufacturing Technology (ManTech) program said during a July 14 event hosted by George Mason University’s Center for Government Contracting

The military services are now working on implementation plans to further advance the new policy, while a Joint Additive Manufacturing Working Group led by Frost’s office continues to oversee AM efforts from the Pentagon.

Cybersecurity Concerns

Cybersecurity Risks Associated with 3D Printing
Above: Cybersecurity is one of the major concerns in 3D printing going ahead (Image for representation purpose)

Despite the momentum behind the department’s use of AM, the DoD Inspector General raised new security concerns in a redacted audit released last week. The watchdog found five DoD component sites did not consistently use cybersecurity controls at their AM sites, leaving both the systems and the design data at risk.

The report states, that ‘the DoD components did not consistently secure or manage their AM systems or design data because AM users considered the AM systems as ‘tools’ to generate supply parts instead of information technology systems that required cybersecurity controls. In addition, the DoD components incorrectly categorized the AM systems as stand-alone systems and erroneously concluded that the systems did not require an authority to operate.’

DoD officials agreed with the IG’s recommendations to treat AM systems as Information Systems under DoD policy and require 3D printing systems to get an ATO. The Air Force told the IG it was releasing a policy requiring an ATO for AM systems in May, with full compliance required by May 2022.

But cybersecurity is still a problem in both the AM industry and in DoD, according to Joe Veranese, business systems manager at America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, which serves as a link between the department and industry. Malicious code and other flaws can still be introduced, Veranese said, requiring the department and industry to adopt a new mindset around the cybersecurity of additive manufacturing.

“I think it’d be a great thing for DAU to come up with sort of a class where all elements of the acquisition workforce are represented, give them a problem, where adaptive manufacturing might be the solution. And then we slip in a bad file and see if they catch it before they go to print and see if we’re actually exercising good security procedures and protocols.”

– Frank Kelley, Vice President of Defense Acquisition University

The new DoD policy on adoption of additive manufacturing systems requires officials to ensure the “cyber-physical infrastructure and processes are secure and capable of supporting the use of AM across the life cycle of weapons systems.” It states the department will conduct periodic cyber risk assessments for AM systems and institute processes specific to AM to prevent data exploitation.

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