The prevalence of counterfeit mil-spec components for the Department of Defense (DoD) has increased dramatically in recent years. Counterfeit components are a serious issue - worth billions of dollars in sales in the marketplace annually. Be it corporate design or organized crime, experts point to complacency, incompetence, collusion, deception, an unwillingness or lack of integrity by middlemen to “get involved,” or simply written off as the “cost of doing business.” All these reasons can be attributed to the proliferation of counterfeit components made available for sale or sold to the DoD.
Besides the cost to taxpayers and the reliability of the product, counterfeit mil-spec components not only compromise the safety of equipment, but more importantly, the soldiers, sailors, and airmen who rely on the equipment for their safety.
What is Mil-Spec?
Mil-spec, short for “military specification,” is considered the defense standard to ensure that products purchased by the DoD meet very specific requirements, commonality, reliability, compatibility with logistics systems, and similar defense-related objectives. Mil-specs detail the exact processes and materials that are used to make military-grade products - hardware or software. Expectations for quality are high. The use of authorized and certified mil-spec components is vital for optimal performance and operational integrity of military equipment.
How Counterfeits Make it to Market
Nevertheless, the rise of counterfeit mil-spec components continue to compromise the supply chain and the risks of ending up with inferior counterfeit parts are very real. Counterfeit components are brought to market a number of ways. The four primary methods currently used to introduce counterfeit DoD components are through:
- Unauthorized production
- False approval markings
Remarking uses are real components that have been “re-marked” with false information as to the manufacturer, country of origin, age, performance grade, quality, capability, function, lot number, and so on, that are often found to be non-functional.
Reuse is the practice of selling used components as new and likely the largest grouping of counterfeit devices in the supply chain. It is generally attributed to the increase, and thus availability, of recycled electronic parts. Most come primarily from China, made through brokers and distributors who, at the very least, provide very little quality control on the products that they handle.
Another favorite method of selling counterfeit mil-spec components is through unauthorized production. With the demand for mil-spec components exceptionally high, the practice of outsourcing by authorized manufacturers has become commonplace. Those facilities contracted to produce genuine components also produce unauthorized versions of those components for sale through unauthorized outlets. Such parts may be overruns that have not undergone proper testing; or parts that failed or did not meet military grade specification and should have been scrapped.
False Approval Markings
The last method is via false approval markings. Approval markings are third party agency safety and compliance standards that are required for certain products by manufacturers. Those agency approval markings are a sign of quality, but also one of trust that product standards have been met. Receiving approval from such familiar agencies as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Conformance European (CE), Canadian Standards Association (CSA), or American National Standards Institute (ANSI), is not easily obtained. The standards for product safety or compliance are exceptionally high in terms of quality and cost. Applying false approval markings to products that claim compliance is another way that counterfeit mil-spec components are sold to the DoD.
Finding Genuine Mil-Spec Components
With the vast majority of counterfeit mil-spec components, many critics point to insufficient control of the supply chain and not enough oversight of the product source. One of the best ways to avoid counterfeits and to achieve the high-quality and high-reliability required for mil-spec components is to keep the lines of communication open with OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) to aid in detecting, limiting, or preventing fake parts from being introduced to the market.
JEM Electronics is an OEM with over 3 decades of producing and sourcing genuine, high-performance, mil-spec components for DoD acquisition. With a specialization in military cable assemblies, we only do business with authorized and certified DoD manufacturers and distributors. Our process requires due diligence on our part to ensure that guidelines are met and high quality, genuine certified parts are used in the manufacturing of components for sale to the DoD and all of our customers. Mil-spec has extremely high standards that JEM follows. We take every necessary precaution to ensure reliability is maintained throughout the whole procurement process.