Friday, March 11, 2011
Counterfeit parts: problem with military electronics designs finally getting attention on Capitol Hill
Posted by John Keller.
Maybe the magnitude of the problem has finally sunk in among U.S. political leaders at the highest levels. I'm talking about the scourge of high-tech -- namely counterfeit electronic parts that have been finding their way into military and aerospace electronics and have the potential to compromise U.S. national security.
Counterfeit electronic components pop up in military and other mission-critical systems when sources for these parts dry up, or if systems integrators are under such financial pressures that they turn to the unreliable sources of electronic parts to cut costs.
The problem threatens at least parts of substandard or unreliable quality that could cause critical military systems to malfunction at the worst possible time. At worst, counterfeit parts could contain software or other back doors that might enable enemies to disable them during periods of conflict.
Now the problem has grown such that it is getting the attention of powerful leaders on Capitol Hill -- one of them a recent presidential candidate.
U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., are launching a congressional investigation into counterfeit electronic parts in the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) supply chain. The bipartisan team of lawmakers released a statement Thursday that reads:
"The Senate Armed Services Committee has initiated an investigation into counterfeit electronic parts in the Department of Defense's supply chain. 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 proliferation of counterfeit goods also damages our economy and costs American jobs. The presence of counterfeit electronic parts in the Defense Departments supply chain is a growing problem that government and industry share a common interest in solving. Over the course of our investigation, the Committee looks forward to the cooperation of the Department of Defense and the defense industry to help us determine the source and extent of this problem and identify possible remedies for it."
The problem of counterfeit parts has received attention in corners of prime U.S. defense contractors, as well as from electronic parts suppliers and distributors.
Perhaps now the problem will get the attention -- and perhaps the resolution -- that it truly deserves.