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The critical degradation voltage of AlGaN/GaN high-electron mobility transistors during off-state electrical stress was determined as a function of Ni/Au gate dimensions (0.1-0.17 μm), drain bias voltage, and source/drain-gate contact distance. Devices with different gate lengths and gate-drain distances were found to exhibit the onset of degradation at different source-drain biases but similar electric field strengths, showing that the degradation mechanism is primarily field driven. The degradation field was calculated to be ~ 1.8 MV/cm by Automatically Tuned Linear Algebra Software simulations. Transmission electron microscopy imaging showed creation of defects under the gate after dc stress.