China urged to as­sist in probe of phony weapon parts

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY BILL GERTZ

China’s gov­ern­ment is re­fus­ing to as­sist Se­nate in­ves­ti­ga­tors prob­ing Chinese firms that are sell­ing coun­ter­feit parts that have been found in high-tech U.S. weapons sys­tems, the lead­ers of the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee said June 14.

Com­mit­tee Chair­man Carl Levin, Michi­gan Demo­crat, and Sen. John McCain, Ari­zona Repub­li­can, told re­porters that a panel in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­vealed that U.S. de­fense con­trac­tors and gov­ern­ment agen­cies traced the sources of most fake de­fense parts to Shen­zhen, in Guang­dong prov­ince near Hong Kong.

China has re­jected re­quests for com­mit­tee staff to visit Shen­zhen as part of the probe, Mr. Levin said, not­ing that in­ves­ti­ga­tors are meet­ing with U.S. of­fi­cials in Hong Kong to seek help.

“The Chinese have said, well, even if this could be ar­ranged, there would have to be a Chinese of­fi­cial present dur­ing the in­ter­views,” Mr. Levin said. “That is a non-starter, some­body look­ing at our staff while they’re in­ter­view­ing peo­ple who are rel­e­vant to an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Trade in coun­ter­feit parts “takes place openly in that city and in that prov­ince,” Mr. Levin said.

Mr. McCain said he hopes the Chinese will as­sist in the staff in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“If the elec­tronic parts that go into our weapons sys­tems are coun­ter­feited, there’s ev­ery pos- si­bil­ity that those coun­ter­feits could crip­ple our abil­ity to have those sys­tems work in the fash­ion for which they were de­signed,” he said. “So there’s a cer­tain amount at stake here, ul­ti­mately, the abil­ity of this coun­try to de­fend it­self with the weapon sys­tems that it can rely on.”

A re­port by the Gov­ern­ment Accountability Of­fice pub­lished in March 2010 stated that the global sup­plier net­work used by the Pen­tagon pro­vides 4 mil­lion parts worth $94 bil­lion.

The parts in­clude fas­ten­ers used on air­craft, mis­sile guid­ance elec­tron­ics, ma­te­ri­als used in body mounts.

“Coun­ter­feit parts have the po­ten­tial to cause a se­ri­ous dis­rup­tion to DoD sup­ply chains, de­lay on­go­ing mis­sions, and even af­fect the in­tegrity of weapon sys­tems,” the re­port said.

It noted that the prob­lem is not lim­ited to weapons sys­tems but in­cludes the Na­tional Aero­nau­tics and Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion and the En­ergy Depart­ment, along with pri­vate-sec­tor pro­duc­ers of soft­ware, com­mer­cial avi­a­tion, au­to­mo­tive parts and con­sumer elec­tron­ics and “can threaten the safety of con­sumers.”

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Mr. Levin said coun­ter­feit parts that have “in­fil­trated” the de­fense sup­ply chain in­clude mi­cro­pro­ces­sors bought by the Air Force for F-15 op­er­a­tional flight­con­trol com­put­ers. Coun­ter­feit mi­cro­cir­cuits also were found on hard­ware of the Pen­tagon’s Mis­sile De­fense Agency.

“In Jan­uary of 2010, the Com­merce Depart­ment pub­lished the re­sults of a sur­vey of al­most 400 com­pa­nies and or­ga­ni­za­tions in the Depart­ment of De­fense’s sup­ply chain,” Mr. Levin said.

“Those who were sur­veyed over­whelm­ingly cited China as the coun­try sus­pected of be­ing the source of the coun­ter­feit elec­tronic parts.”

Dale Mey­er­rose, a spe­cial­ist with Har­ris Cy­ber In­te­grated So­lu­tions, said the sen­a­tors’ con­cerns are jus­ti­fied be­cause threats to crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture from com­pro­mised sup­ply chains are se­ri­ous and en­dan­ger na­tional se­cu­rity and pub­lic safety.

“Mo­ti­va­tions be­hind these threats range from the crim­i­nally op­por­tunis­tic driven by profit and greed to state-spon­sored seek­ing an asym­met­ric ad­van­tage over our of­ten su­pe­rior mil­i­tary or in­dus­try en­ti­ties,” he said.

Chinese of­fi­cials this month crit­i­cized pend­ing U.S. leg­is­la­tion that would con­tinue a ban on Chinese mil­i­tary com­pa­nies from bid­ding on U.S. weapons pro­grams.

They told the state-run Xin­hua News Agency that the mea­sure is in­con­sis­tent with in­ter­na­tional trade rules and “a dis­torted re­ac­tion aris­ing from U.S. wari­ness and bias about China’s grow­ing na­tional strength.”

“It shows that the United States wor­ries that China is chal­leng­ing its global hege­monic sta­tus,” the June 2 ar­ti­cle said.

The House bill changes lan­guage from leg­is­la­tion en­acted in 2006 block­ing Chinese mil­i­tary com­pa­nies from con­tracts by al­ter­ing pro­vi­sions that would al­low the de­fense sec­re­tary to pro­vide a waiver of the ban if a Chinese com­pany’s prod­ucts were needed to sup­port U.S. na­tional se­cu­rity.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Sen. Carl Levin, Michi­gan Demo­crat, left, and Sen. John McCain, Ari­zona Repub­li­can, ad­dress the me­dia June 14 about the Chinese gov­ern­ment’s fail­ure to co­op­er­ate in an on­go­ing Se­nate Armed Ser vices Com­mit­tee in­ves­ti­ga­tion into counter feit parts in the Depart­ment of De­fense sup­ply chain.

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