Counterfeit Electronic Parts Ending Up In DoD Weapons Systems

Faulty counterfeit electronic parts are ending up in the Defense Department’s weapons systems, and the problem poses a critical risk to national security, according to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI), who chairs the panel, and John McCain (R-AZ), its ranking member, on Wednesday called the presence of counterfeit electronic parts in the DoD supply chain a “growing problem” and announced an investigation into just how they are ending up there.

“Counterfeit electronic parts pose a risk to our national security, the reliability of our weapons systems and the safety of our military men and women,” the senators said in the release. “The proliferation of counterfeit goods also damages our economy and costs American jobs.”

Over the course of our investigation, the committee plans to determine the source and extent of this problem and identify possible solutions.

A report by the U.S. Department of Commerce in January 2010 found that 39 percent of electronics companies contracted by the DoD encountered counterfeit electronics from subcontractors, more than doubling from 2005 to 2008. The semiconductor industry also has expressed concerns that counterfeit chips mislabeled as military-grade can lead to fatal malfunction in military and aerospace parts.

The Department of Homeland Security’s 2012 budget request includes funds prevent trade in counterfeit and pirated goods. The DHS has identified computer chips for defense systems and airplane equipment as among the top seized commodities in investigations into intellectual property violations.

In testimony last week before the House Judiciary Committee, Victoria Espinel, U.S. intellectual property enforcement coordinator for the executive office of the president, said her office is working “intensely” with the DoD and NASA on a plan to stop counterfeit products from entering the military and “critical infrastructure supply chain, which put our military and national security at risk.”

“Counterfeit products coming in to the U.S. Government supply chain is unacceptable — particularly products that could have an impact on our military and national security,” she said.