Counterfeit military goods are a bigger problem in this country than most people realize. Just this year, an American military contractor admitted to playing a role in shipping counterfeit semiconductors from overseas to the U.S. military. The semiconductors were inferior in quality and were slated for installation in nuclear submarines. If this operation hadn’t been discovered, there could have been a potential naval disaster.
This was by no means the only instance of counterfeit goods making their way to the U.S. military. It is only recently, however, that the problem has come to light in a way that showcases its fullest extent. As more counterfeit problems are discovered, the federal government is starting to make moves to mitigate the trade of these goods. Federal agencies are forming partnerships with state and local governments, as well as the manufacturers of electronics, weapon parts, and other materials that could make it to the military, in order to try to put a stop to counterfeiting before it starts. It is much better to stop counterfeiting at the beginning, because once counterfeit goods get into the supply chain, they are almost impossible to discover, unless they break or otherwise cause something to go wrong in military equipment.
In some cases, the counterfeiting can actually be malicious in nature, and not just profit-motivated. There are counterfeit parts that are made with the specific intention of putting our soldiers in danger. This could be anything from a tactical bug coded into an electronic part, or a weapons part that gives away a soldier’s location without the soldier knowing it. With the many different groups out there who would love to cause trouble for the U.S. and its military, this form of counterfeiting can be considered a type of terrorism, and one that we should take seriously. It’s not even a problem that is exclusive to overseas companies. It can happen right here in the United States, too, and does.
Because prevention at the source is the best way to counter the problem of counterfeiting, it is important that manufacturers in the supply chain take measures to protect their products. It is easy for certain products to get into the hands of counterfeiters, either through unscrupulous employees, theft, or copying a product and sending it back into the supply chain as an original. If done correctly, no one will ever know of the ruse. Those who counterfeit for profit or other reasons know this and take advantage of gaps in the manufacturing process to do their work.
Manufacturers that supply parts to the U.S. military can take steps to protect their products and their good names from counterfeiters by implementing Counterfeit Mitigation programs. Using more careful and closely supervised planning and management for their technological developments and the creation of them is a first step that makes a strong difference.
Many companies that do business with the U.S. military have already started their own in-house counterfeit mitigation programs. These programs vary from company to company in their requirements and implementation. SAE International has put together a good, comprehensive booklet for any company wanting to start their own in-house counterfeit mitigation program. It should serve as the template and industry standard, as it covers everything needed to protect a company from counterfeiters to the greatest extent possible.
With guides, checklists, testing methods, and risk assessments for distributors of their products, SAE is leading the way in counterfeit mitigation. While theirs is just one approach, any company wanting to start its own in-house counterfeit mitigation program would do well to follow their lead.