Counterfeit Military Parts "Threaten the Safety and Mission Readiness of Our Armed Forces"
Author:  Paul Hortenstine
Date:  11/09/2011

Yesterday, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on its investigation into counterfeit electronic parts in the Department of Defense supply chain.  The defense industry is very susceptible to counterfeit parts because many defense systems rely on electronic parts that are no longer produced by the original manufacturer.  This hearing illustrated the importance of passing rogue sites legislation to further protect our military and consumers from purchasing counterfeit goods. 

Rogue sites legislation, the PROTECT IP Act (S.968) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261) in the House, will preserve American jobs and target foreign websites that steal and profit from counterfeit goods and stolen creative content like books, movies and music.

In March, the committee began an investigation into the defense supply chain—including defense contractors and subcontractors—about the unknowing purchase of counterfeit components for such things as aircraft and missile systems, often through the Internet.  So far, it has found over 1 million suspect counterfeit electronic parts that were purchased.   More than 70% of the counterfeit parts originated in China.

At the hearing, Chairman Carl Levin said, “The systems we rely on for national security and the protection of our military men and women depend on the performance and reliability of small, highly sophisticated electronic components.” He added, “The failure of a single electronic part can leave a soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine vulnerable at the worst possible time.  A flood of counterfeit electronic parts has made it a lot harder to have confidence that won’t happen.” 

And Ranking Member John McCain stated, “These counterfeit parts threaten the safety and mission readiness of our armed forces because they are unreliable. They may work for a short time, but we do not know for how long, how well, and what will happen when they fail.”

As this hearing showed, foreign rogue sites are a danger to our national defense and our brave military men and women in uniform. Rogue sites also hurt our economy and cost us jobs.  Senator McCain is a cosponsor of the PROTECT IP Act, part of a bipartisan coalition of 39 senators who have signed up as cosponsors to the bill that is sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy.  The legislation will help target foreign sites including those that sell counterfeit military parts. 

Back in July, The Daily Caller published an article by Bob Calvert that listed the important reasons to pass the PROTECT IP Act.  He wrote,

“In January 2010, a U.S. Department of Commerce study of the military component supply chain for Defense Department agencies found that the number of counterfeit electronics entering the system increased from 3,868 incidents to 9,356 between 2005 and 2008. The study was conducted because Defense Department officials were worried that more and more counterfeit and defective electronics were finding their way into the Pentagon’s vast supply chain in ways that could affect the reliability of weapons. Unfortunately, this is the grim reality that we must confront. This situation is confounded by the availability of counterfeit products through rogue websites. 

Rogue websites steal American intellectual property and are dedicated to trafficking counterfeit products and digital theft. They dupe consumers, steal our jobs and threaten the vibrant Internet marketplace. If given the opportunity, rogue websites will sell military components and electronics to make a quick buck.

Fortunately, Congress is taking steps to provide new tools against these illicit activities and help protect the jobs of hardworking Americans and the vitality of our creative and innovative sectors. The PROTECT IP Act would cut off rogue sites from the U.S. marketplace by disrupting the flow of Internet traffic and money to the site and its operators. Congress should act to protect American jobs, creativity and consumers by enacting this legislation without delay.”