Kramer on Counterfeits: Investigations, Evidence, and an Unclear Solution


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In November of 2011, when the United States government publicly got involved in attempting to curb the epidemic of counterfeits in the supply chain, it was a little too late. The Senate Arms Services Committee, led by Senators John McCain and Carl Levin, gave Americans their first glimpse into the catastrophic dangers that our Department of Defense and the aerospace community was facing. The Committee on Armed Services held a hearing regarding the investigation of counterfeit electronic parts in the defense supply chain and revealed alarming facts about how easy counterfeit components can infiltrate the supply chain.

Figure 1: Senate Arms Services Committee led by Senators McCain and Levin.

At the request of McCain and Levin, an investigation was performed by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which involved the creation of a fictitious company with the intent of gaining membership in two Internet platforms offering electronic components. This false company was provided with an owner, employees, mailing address, e-mail addresses, a website and a listing on the Central Contractors Registration. Report: Counterfeits in the Supply Chain

As a result of this investigation, the GAO-12-375 report was released to the public on February 21, 2012. Heavily involved in this project was Tim Parsons, chief scientist of the GAO. Recently, I had the opportunity to catch up with Parsons and discuss what he felt were the most important findings uncovered or learned as a result of this investigation. He said, “To summarize the key findings of our investigation report, we found that counterfeit electronic parts were indeed found in the supply chain of a number of key weapons systems (which often have multi-decadal life cycles), were relatively easy to acquire through internet platforms, and were increasingly sophisticated such that advanced inspection and authentication techniques were required to classify them as suspect counterfeit.”Read the full column here.Editor's Note: This column originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of SMT Magazine.

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