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Counterfeit Electronic Parts Threaten Our Troops and Our Security

By Sen. Carl Levin

Earlier this year, the Senate Armed Services Committee, which I chair, began an investigation of counterfeit electronic parts finding their way into the systems that our military uses to defend us. We recently held our first hearing to look at what our investigation has discovered so far, and what we have found will shock the American public.
There is a flood of counterfeit electronic parts entering the defense supply chain.  It is endangering our troops and costing us a fortune. And the overwhelming share of these counterfeits comes from one country: China.
Here is some of what we have found:
*Looking at just a slice of the defense contracting universe, the committee reviewed 1,800 cases of electronic parts suspected to be counterfeit.  Those 1,800 cover more than 1 million individual parts. Now, 1 million parts is surely a huge number, but remember, we’ve only looked at a portion of the defense supply chain. Those 1,800 cases are just the tip of the iceberg.
*Staff selected more than 100 of those cases to trace the suspect parts back through the supply chain. In more than 70 percent of cases, the trail led to China, where a brazenly open market in counterfeit electronic parts thrives.  In most of the remaining cases, the trail led to known resale points for parts coming from China.
*We also conducted detailed investigations of how suspect counterfeit parts from China ended up in three key defense systems. In each case, we traced the parts through a complex web of subcontractors and suppliers back to Chinese companies.
*It is stunning how far the counterfeiters are willing to go.  We asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO), acting undercover, to go online and buy electronic parts used in military systems. Every single part the GAO has received so far has been counterfeit. GAO found suppliers who not only sold them counterfeit parts when they sought real parts; suppliers were also willing to sell them parts with nonexistent, made-up part numbers. Every one of the counterfeit parts they received came from China.
Too often, the cost of replacing counterfeit parts once they are discovered falls on taxpayers. We are working on legislation that would change Pentagon rules so that contractors, not taxpayers, pay to replace counterfeit parts when they are discovered. We will require that contractors notify the military immediately when they discover electronic parts that are suspected to be counterfeit, and that they report those counterfeit cases to a computerized system that contractors and the government use to track such problems.
But as we do that, we also must stop the flood of counterfeit parts at the source – and that source is mainly in China.
Witnesses told us how counterfeiters in China remove electronic parts from scrapped computers and other electronic waste, how they wash the parts in dirty rivers, and dry them in the street.  Counterfeiters make this scrap look like new parts and sell them openly in markets in Chinese cities and through the Internet to buyers around the world.
Chinese authorities impeded our investigation, refusing even to issue visas to our investigators to enter mainland China. At one point, a Chinese embassy official told staff that the issues we were investigating were “sensitive” and that the investigation could be “damaging” to U.S.-China relations.
They got it backwards. What is damaging to U.S.-China relations is China’s refusal to act against brazen counterfeiting.
If China does not act promptly to end counterfeiting, then we will have no choice but to treat all electronic parts coming in from China—whether for military or civilian use—as  suspected counterfeits. That would mean requiring inspection of all shipments of Chinese electronic parts to ensure that they are legitimate.
We cannot afford to put our troops at risk by arming them with unreliable weapons or asking them to fly planes with fake parts on them. We cannot afford to spend needed defense dollars on fake parts. And we cannot allow our national security to depend on electronic scrap salvaged from trash heaps by counterfeiters in China.
Carl Levin is the senior U.S. senator from Michigan and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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Hunting for a good cause

Local processor gives back to troops and food pantries

Most sportsmen these days don’t need to hunt to keep food on the table. But one local deer processor is giving hunters the opportunity to feed the hungry and do something special for our military troops at the same time.
Colin Kelly, owner of Kelly’s Deer processing, just south of Big Rapids, said that if a hunter will donate their whole deer to Sportsman against Hunger, not only will he process it for free (a $75 value) and distribute it to area food pantries, but he will take certain parts of it and turn it into Jerky for the Troops, which will be sent to service men and women, wherever they are stationed.
“We have sent over 2,000 pounds of jerky around the world,” said Kelly. “I’m getting phone calls from Iraq and Afghanistan saying, ‘Thanks, send me more.’ I’ve had a lot of fun with it. It brings a lot of pleasure to me to give these kids a taste of home.”
Kelly allows families of troops to purchase the jerky at cost any time of the year (while supplies last) to send to their loved one. He also does a bulk mailing in late January, in conjunction with a Big Buck awards banquet. Family members come in and fill the box with personal items, and then Kelly’s fills it up with jerky, hunting magazines, etc. He said that uniformed soldiers in the ROTC at Ferris or uniformed soldiers who have previously received the jerky come in and help label it for troops. “They received it and now they are helping send it. They’ve come full circle,” he said.
Kelly’s has also been involved in Sportsman Against Hunger for several years. They have distributed almost 200,000 pounds of venison to food pantries and soup kitchens all across Michigan. “We are here supporting our community,” noted Kelly. As an example, they will soon be catering 770 free meals for their local national guard, who is being deployed. “We do get involved quite a bit,” he said.
For more information, visit Kelly’s website at www.kellysdeerprocessing.com, or call 231-796-5414.

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