New Defense Department Program Aims to Transform U.S. Metal Manufacturing in Casting and Forging Industry

12 December 2023

The Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation® (IACMI), in partnership with the Department of Defense's (DoD) Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment (IBAS) Program, announced today a national workforce initiative to help meet essential U.S defense needs in the casting and forging industry. The multi-year agreement between DoD and IACMI is already underway to develop curriculum for a series of stackable training opportunities in the metals industry that focus on the development of trades and engineering labor in the metals industry. The announcement came as the 2023 Defense Manufacturing Conference (DMC) kicked off in Nashville.

"The materials in our weapons systems affect platform resilience, sustainability, and affordability," said Dr. Matthew Draper, Technical Director of Metallurgy and Manufacturing, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment – Innovation Capability and Modernization Office. "Castings and forgings are critical to achieving and maintaining the capabilities we need; however, the supply chain for cast and forge components for the Defense Industrial Base has shrunk by 80 percent. In a time when we must now produce defense materials at tonnage levels not seen since the Cold War, we must rebuild a modern, technologically adept workforce capable of delivering with far fewer personnel."

DoD has prioritized castings and forgings as one of four focus areas in which critical vulnerabilities pose the most pressing threat to national security. Between now and 2028, the defense industrial base will need at least 122,000 additional shipbuilders, engineers, and other key DoD support roles. Failure to meet the demand for metallurgical engineers and related trade professionals in the base metals industry creates vulnerability in U.S. national defense.

The new Metallurgical Engineering Trades Apprenticeship & Learning (METAL) program aims to transform the U.S. metal manufacturing workforce in the castings and forging industry by developing a national training network to sustain and bolster the base metals workforce through 2050. METAL is supported by DoD's Innovation Capability and Modernization (ICAM) Office within Manufacturing Capability Expansion & Investment Prioritization (MCEIP) in partnership with industry and the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI). The Steering Committee includes representatives from across the services at Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), the Air Force Life Cycle Management Command (AFLCM), and the Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM).

METAL will leverage IACMI's proven workforce development capabilities and experience in scaling up technical training networks, including the successful America's Cutting Edge (ACE) CNC machining training program developed by University of Tennessee Professor Tony Schmitz and proven regional training center models to deliver comprehensive and hands-on, metals industry training.

IACMI will engage world-renowned metallurgical and industry experts and educational institutions to develop a core METAL program curriculum and training methods in early 2024. In its testbed phase, this curriculum will focus on traditional base metal processes, like casting, forging, and plate production. Future program expansions could cover hybrid processes, automation, and consumables.

METAL's experiential learning pathways aim to include:

  • Direct trades programs
  • Metallurgical engineering certification and degree programs
  • Apprenticeships, internships
  • Short-term training modules, including online courses and hands-on bootcamps

METAL curriculums will explore advanced manufacturing technologies, new materials and manufacturing innovation, as well as flexible and accelerated training methodologies. Workforce skillsets must be deeper and broader to effectively maintain resilient and secure domestic supply chains necessary for the defense industrial base.

"Fostering development of an industrial base workforce and ensuring the right skillsets are available – from trade skills through doctorial-level engineering capabilities – is vital to national security," said Joannie Harmon, vice president of workforce development for IACMI. "Our goal for METAL is to ensure the nation's metal manufacturing workforce is a source of strategic and competitive advantage for the United States."


IACMI-The Composites Institute is a 140-plus member community of industry, colleges and universities, national laboratories, and federal, state, and local government agencies working together to benefit the nation's energy, manufacturing, and economic security. IACMI is managed by the Collaborative Composite Solutions Corporation (CCS), a not-for-profit organization established by The University of Tennessee Research Foundation. A Manufacturing USA institute, IACMI is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Materials Manufacturing Technologies Office, as well as key state and industry partners.