Counterfeit Component Testing in the National Defense Authorization Act

I strongly feel that the National Defense Authorization Act signed by President Obama was a monumental step in combating the counterfeit electronics epidemic.  A more powerful objective would be to establish government standards defining clear and concise testing requirements for different electronics component types focusing on proper functional and parametric (DC/AC) electrical testing.  The basic level contact testing which is used by some companies today does not instill a high level of confidence in the electronic components tested. The government should establish the higher standard for all electronic components testing.

The National Defense Authorization Act is large and complex bill.  For a one-page summary of the section relating to counterfeit parts, see: Defense Authorization Act – Detection of Counterfeit Parts Requirements (

For more information about NJMET’s Mission Imposter® Counterfeit Component Detection Program, see the Mission Imposter Page  at the NJMET website or call Joseph Federico at NJMET’s Clifton, NJ headquarters at 973 546-5393.

Lessons from the failed Phobos-Grunt Mars probe: use proper grade components and test them

Last fall, the Russian Space Agency launched the Phobos-Grunt Mars probe.  Its mission was to journey to Mars’ moon Phobos, collect samples and return to Earth.  About 11 minutes after launch, the spacecraft stalled in Earth orbit and went into safe mode.  Most of the craft burned up in the atmosphere, the rest of it fell into the Pacific Ocean on January 15th.

The investigation by the Russian space agency into the cause of the failure determined that non-space grade electronic chips were used in the spacecraft’s design.  Additionally, the report states that there was inadequate testing performed on the spacecraft’s components during the development process.

While there are issues with the official report’s conclusion that radiation caused the failure of the non-space grade components, this episode illustrates the problems that can be missed when there is inadequate testing of all electronic components during the design and development process.  Testing components over a wide range of environmental conditions is necessary to insure that they will work as intended.

Some counterfeit parts are inappropriate grade parts that have been modified (markings, etc.) to appear to be what they aren’t, for example using commercial grade parts in space. The story of the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft illustrates why  counterfeit components must be eliminated from the supply chain.

Information on the Senate’s Counterfeit Parts Amendment

The Senate recently approved a Counterfeit Parts Amendment  in an effort to reduce the number of counterfeit electronic components in the Armed Forces supply chain. The amendment was introduced by senators Carl Levin, D-Mich. And John McCain, R-Ariz., the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The amendment was to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012.

The amendment includes several important steps towards reducing the amount of counterfeit electronic components in the armed forces supply chain.

Here is a list of some of the specific requirements in the amendment:

• It requires DOD officials and DOD contractors who become aware of counterfeit parts in the supply chain to provide written notification to the DOD Inspector General, the contracting officer, and the Government-Industry Data Exchange Program (GIDEP) or similar program designated by the Secretary of Defense.

• It requires large DOD contractors to establish systems for detecting and avoiding counterfeit parts in their supply chains and authorizes reduction of contract payments to contractors that fail to develop adequate systems.

• It authorizes the suspension of contractors who repeatedly fail to detect and avoid counterfeit parts or otherwise fail to exercise due diligence in the detection and avoidance of counterfeit parts.

• Finally, the amendment requires DOD to define the term “counterfeit part” – a critical and long overdue step toward getting a handle on this problem.

For a more detailed list of provisions, see:

Recycled Electronic Components

Keeping One Step Ahead of Counterfeit Electronic Components is a good short article on the need for counterfeit component testing.  Among other things, it talks about the need for extra vigilance when purchasing recycled components. 

Often the purchaser does not even know that they are buying recycled parts. Old parts, near the end of their lifecycle are harvested using harsh and inexact techniques. The parts are then cleaned, re-branded and sold as new.

New Book on History of Electronic Testing

Electronic Testing is the subject of a free downloadable book by Michael L. Bushnell and Wishavani D. Agrawal. This book nicely covers the 40-year history of Electronic Testing. It is comprehensive in what it covers, but is lacking a section on testing for counterfeit or cloned electronic components.

You can learn more about this book and download it at:

Book title: Essentials of Electronic Testing
By: Michael L. Bushnell, Wishavani D. Agrawal
Publisher: Kluwer
ISBN: 0306470403
Edition: 2002
Book type: PDF
Pages: 713