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Jim Burger writes about counterfeits for Defense One

August 9, 2013

IP partner Jim Burger wrote about the startling influx of counterfeit electronics into the U.S. military supply chain in a recent article for Defense One.

Defense One is a new online publication of Atlantic Media, the parent company of The Atlantic. Launched in June, it provides breaking news and in-depth analysis on all aspects of national security and U.S. defense efforts.

The article, “Counterfeits Can Kill U.S. Troops. So Why Isn't Congress and DoD Doing More to Stop It?is co-authored with Kimberly Heifetz and details problems that have cropped up in Congress’ and the Administration’s response to a swell of counterfeit semiconductors that have turned up in critical military systems.

In recent years, fake electronics have been discovered in helicopter forward-looking infrared, F-16 hostile tracking radar, portable nuclear identification tools, and aircraft pilot display units. Without effective cooperation at the border by Customs with original manufacturers and adequate DoD procurement rules, these fake products have the potential to cause catastrophic equipment malfunctions, putting our service personnel in danger.

“The good news is that the threat of counterfeits can be drastically reduced by effective border enforcement,” Jim writes in the article. Unfortunately, a 2012 law focused on counterfeits in the military supply chain lacks the teeth necessary to empower Customs agents to work with semiconductor manufacturers to stop counterfeits at the border.

A bipartisan bill now with the House Judiciary Committee has the power to correct this faulty policy. “This simple legislative fix will stop counterfeit semiconductors before they even come near our military systems,” the attorneys write.

Another problem looms with the Department of Defense’s response to the counterfeit issue.

“The Defense Department is poised to alter its federal acquisition regulations to directly target counterfeit electronics. But the agency’s proposed rule, announced in May, is riddled with ambiguities and loopholes,” the article notes. “Before moving forward on any rulemaking, DoD needs to issue another proposed rule regarding counterfeit electronics,” they wrote. “In its current form, the rule simply doesn’t work. But it’s still possible to craft a regulation that will allow all tiers of the military supply chain to detect and avoid counterfeit parts.

“Semiconductor companies, industry groups and universities can help enormously in this process. Like the government, they want nothing more than to ensure our military is working every day with the best equipment possible.”

Jim, a member of Thompson Coburn Lobbying & Policy, has represented semiconductor companies before Congress, the White House and the Homeland Security, Defense and Treasury departments on the anti-counterfeiting issue. He and Kimberly Heifetz prepared comments for the semiconductor industry in response to DoD’s proposed rule. As the Vice Chair of the Intellectual Property Owners Association's Anti-Counterfeiting and Anti-Piracy Committee, Jim also helped the IPO draft comments to the Pentagon on preventing counterfeits in DoD procurement. He has also spoken directly to military leaders about the dangers of counterfeit parts, including a recent speech before the Naval Sea Systems Command.