Stopping counterfeiting is a goal shared by everyone in the electronics supply chain except for those benefiting from the illegal activity. However, threats of fines can't do the job of ridding the industry of the practice. I believe that changes in processes can. This requires that our senators and other lawmakers understand a bit more about the supply chain and the many ways parts enter the chain -- and that is the area around which new process-changing legislation could be written to attack the whole problem with greater effectiveness.
The most important thing that legislators can do at this point is to ask the private sector. The answer to solving counterfeiting may turn out to be fairly simple, and those of us who are in the trenches probably have many insights that could really make a difference. (See: Some Problems Can't Be Penalized Away, Part 1 and Some Problems Can't Be Penalized Away, Part 2.)
From the way I see it, there may be a number of process changers that could work specifically for military counterfeits. Here's one that can be jump-started with a simple flip of an executive pen: Write into law that government component procurement must be handled through certified sources -- suppliers that have the processes, equipment, and resources to verify and guarantee authenticity of the parts they sell. Purchasing agencies and companies can find these sources through organizations such as the Independent Distributors of Electronics Association (IDEA).
The independent distribution organizations that are members of this association adhere to high quality and ethical standards and are committed to ensuring that customers only receive quality parts and services. Check the IDEA site for specifics. It bears mentioning that independent distributors are accepted into membership in IDEA only after they meet all requirements and are confirmed by the IDEA board of directors. I'm sure there are other ways to effectively alter the purchasing process. What are your suggestions?
For me, the bottom line is this: Legislation may help, but there's more to be done. There's a need for process change. Agencies need to commit to procuring components only through certified sources. And responsible, ethical distributors that aren't already certified need to step up and put in place the equipment, processes, and resources to meet the requirements for certification. Startups and others that want to get certified but can't afford the costs involved could perhaps receive underwriting from yet unformed government agencies.
What are your thoughts? How much impact will the legislation, S. 1228: Combating Military Counterfeits Act of 2011, have on eliminating counterfeit components in the supply chain? Does certification help or is there a better way? I welcome your comments and opinions. And I urge you to write your congressional representatives to make your voice heard.