Coping with Counterfeit Electronics in Defense Supply Chain

05/08/2011 Unlike during the cold war era when the domestic electronics industry and military research and development funding spawned most advances in electronics, the post cold war era has reversed that process with military capabilities now highly dependent on advances in commercial electronics. The increasingly low cost and constantly shrinking electronics emanating from this paradigm shift have benefited militaries around the world through the enabling of network centric warfare and the efficiencies of tail to tooth logistics and battle management.  But the dark side to all of this benefit in the shift from high cost, high reliability supply chain management practiced by western military electronics manufacturers up until the COTS era is loss of total supply chain control and the many vulnerabilities and potential failure points in military systems today.

With the advent of COTS and the explosive global growth in electronics distributors, it is increasingly difficult to track the trade and determine the pedigree of electronic components in the complex global electronics supplier base. Given that the military electronics component of the global electronics industry is a mere one quarter of one percent of the total electronics market, military electronics manufacturers are now virtually totally dependent on the commercial electronics industry. The necessity of using COTS components sourced from the global manufacturing and distribution system has introduced supply chain vulnerabilities the least of which is counterfeit parts entering the military supply chain.

Dr. Mike Pecht of the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering is an authority on the counterfeit electronics parts.  Mike will be speaking at an important conference this week, Suspect Counterfeit Parts:The Impact on Our National and Economic Security sponsored by the DoE. . Mike and UMD hold their own annual symposium on counterfeit electronics .  I met Mike at one of those UMD counterfeit symposia a few years ago because I was working on government contracts studying China’s electronics industry and I had purchased three of his books in the China’s Electronics Industry series.  I wanted to interview Mike in more detail and a year after that we collaborated on producing the 2009 Edition of China’s Electronics Industry .

For a more in depth treatment of NETWORK CENTRIC WARFARE’S VULNERABILITIES IN THE ELECTRONICS SUPPLY CHAIN please see my article at TBI’s web site or at the BATTLESPACE posting at .

"If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking."

—General George Patton Jr.

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