CAPITOL HILL: “These findings should outrage every American.”
Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is a tough former prosecutor but he rarely offers such sweeping condemnations as he did today when releasing the findings of a congressional sting operation designed to test whether China had changed its ways and had started combating counterfeit defense parts.
“The Chinese government’s refusal to shut down counterfeiting that occurs openly in their country puts our national security and the safety of our military men and women at risk. Not only that, but it also costs thousands of American jobs,” Levin said in a statement.
The sting was run by investigators from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). They bought parts for the Air Force’s F-15 fighter, the Maverick missile, the Marine Corps’ V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, and the Navy’s Los Angeles-class nuclear submarine. All the parts bought “failed inspection and were determined to be counterfeit.”
One part bought by GAO was an amplifier used found in the Army and Air Force’s Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System, the Air Force’s F-15 fighter, and the Maverick AGM-65A missile. It’s designed to convert incoming voltage into outputs that can be hundreds to thousands of times higher. If they fail that could cripple a subsystem, the GAO found.
Visual inspection of these parts found inconsistencies “which suggested that samples were re- marked. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) analysis revealed further evidence of re-marking. X-ray fluorescence (XRF) testing of the samples revealed that the leads contain no lead (Pb) instead of the 3 percent lead (Pb) required by military specifications,” the GAO report says.
The report, written by government auditors, contains an important caveat, one that will be ignored by almost everyone involved except, probably, the Chinese: “The results of this investigation are based on the use of a nongeneralizable sample, and these results cannot be used to make inferences about the extent to which parts are being counterfeited.” Now that we’ve got that out of the way…
“The Chinese government won’t act to stop counterfeiting carried out in their country,” Levin said. “Since China won’t act, we must. It is critical that Treasury and the Department of Homeland Security implement the authorities we gave them in the National Defense Authorization Act to stop counterfeit parts before they enter the country. There is too much at stake for us to delay.”
The SASC added language to last year’s defense policy bill aimed at curbing the purchase of counterfeit parts, but Levin and his ranking member, Sen. John McCain, clearly think more needs to be done.
At a November hearing on the issue of counterfeit parts, the GAO found that counterfeit parts were discovered on at least seven aircraft, including two C-27J aircraft deployed to Afghanistan, Boeing’s new P-8A anti-submarine and ISR aircraft, as well as some of Lockheed Martin’s C-130Js.
“So long as this threat persists, we must continue to take steps, such as the ones Senator Levin and I legislated in last year’s defense bill, to prevent counterfeits from harming our troops and undermining our weapons systems,” McCain said in a statement.
The Pentagon said in November that it would have a new policy aimed at counterfeit parts out sometime this month.