The GAO, with help from the Defense Logistics Agency, then requested quotes from vendors on both online trading sites for military-grade electronics parts that are either obsolete or very rare; with authentic parts numbers but with date codes after the last date the part was manufactured; and totally bogus parts numbers that aren't associated with authentic electronics parts at all.
The GAO ended up purchasing 16 parts, four of which technically do not even exist. China was the main source of responses, and the GAO purchased parts from vendors in Shenzen, Shantou and Beijing.
Some of these were electronics parts that in theory would be used in military systems, including Army and Air Force Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar Systems, the F-15 Eagle fighter plane, the Maverick AGM-65A missile, the Air Force Special Operations Forces' AC-130H Gunship aircraft, the B-2B aircraft and the Navy's Hawkeye aircraft. The GAO noted that in some cases, the failure of a critical part could pose a risk to the system overall. "Counterfeit parts -- generally the misrepresentation of parts' identity or pedigree -- can seriously disrupt the DOD supply chain, harm weapons systems integrity and endanger troops' lives," the GAO report concluded.
Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security.
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