Whose bright idea is it to outsource our weapons manufacturing to China?
Given China’s abysmal track record in counterfeit products — including fake pet food (that killed American dogs and cats), fake drugs, fake milk and infant formula (that have killed Chinese babies), and fake rice (mixed with plastic pellets, I kid you not) — having U.S. weapons parts made in China is just asking for trouble.
Yesterday, at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, we are told that the Pentagon’s supply chain is “inundated” with suspect counterfeit electronics, mostly from China, which can “possibly” endanger the lives of our troops.
Donna Cassata reports from the Associated Press, Nov. 8, 2011, that company executives, a Defense Department official, government investigator and a representative from the semiconductor industry testified before the committee about a “ticking time bomb” of suspect counterfeit electronics ending up in weapons system. They described counterfeiters operating openly in Chinese provinces with Beijing unwilling to crack down on the deception.
Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the committee, said, “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.”
The counterfeit weapons parts are mixed with fake ones in hopes that the counterfeits will not be detected when companies test the components for multimillion-dollar missile systems, helicopters and aircraft. That practice is called “sprinkling”.
The committee’s ongoing investigation found about 1,800 cases of suspect counterfeit electronics being sold to the Pentagon. The total number of parts in these cases topped 1 million. By the semiconductor industry’s estimates, counterfeiting costs $7.5 billion a year in lost revenue and about 11,000 U.S. jobs.
Richard J. Hillman, an official with the Government Accountability Office, told the committee that they created a fictitious company to investigate counterfeit parts, purchasing them through the Internet. They were able to buy 13 parts and after analysis of seven found that none was authentic.
The committee investigators found that counterfeit or suspect electronic parts were installed or delivered to the military for several weapons systems, including military aircraft such as the Air Force’s C-17 and the Marine Corps’ CH-46 helicopter, as well as the Army’s Theatre High-Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) missile defense system.
THAAD or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense is a U.S. Army system to shoot down short, medium, and intermediate ballistic missiles in their terminal phase using a hit-to-kill approach. The missile carries no warhead but relies on the kinetic energy of the impact. THAAD was designed to hit Scuds and similar weapons, but also has a limited capability against ICBMs.
Missing from the long list of witnesses at the hours-plus hearing was a representative from China. Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said the panel wrote the Chinese ambassador but he declined to send someone to testify. Instead, China’s foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Beijing “attaches great importance to and has actively promoted cooperation in fighting fake and shoddy goods with competent authorities of other countries….” Blah, blah, blah.