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Chinese stymie U.S. hunt for parts [The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]
[June 18, 2011]

Chinese stymie U.S. hunt for parts [The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]

(Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) June 18--Senate investigators are returning from Hong Kong after China on Friday again refused their entry into the mainland to investigate the manufacture of counterfeit military parts for the American F-15 fighter jet and other high-tech defense components.

Staff members of the Senate Armed Services Committee had tried since Tuesday to secure visas to visit Shenzhen, a booming high-tech metropolis in southern China where investigators believe the Chinese are manufacturing counterfeit military parts. A committee staff member confirmed the mission had failed.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the committee chairman, said this week that defense contractors and military component distributors "almost totally and exclusively point to China" as the source of phony parts and singled out Shenzhen as the heart of the operation.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the committee's ranking minority member, said, "If the electronic parts that go into our weapons systems are counterfeited, there's every possibility that those counterfeits could cripple our ability to have those systems work in the fashion for which they were designed." The committee began investigating in part because of a Government Accountability Office report last year that specified at least 24 instances of alleged counterfeiting of military parts, including components for computers for the F-15 flight control system. Those components were detected before they could be installed, the GAO stated.

In other instances, federal investigators found 3,500 counterfeit network components, an undisclosed number of counterfeit radar components and diodes, and even counterfeit brake shoes for medium tactical trailers. Some of the brake shoes were made of seaweed, the GAO reported.

The Department of Defense maintains the extent of the problem is minimal.

"We do not believe this to be an extensive problem," Lt. Col. Melinda Morgan wrote in an e-mail to the Tribune-Review, noting the department has "a quality assurance process, which identifies nonconforming material and makes a subsequent determination as to its authenticity." However, Morgan said, "Anytime you're dealing with counterfeiting, it is a serious problem, but that doesn't mean extensive." Michelle McCaskill, chief of media relations for the Defense Logistics Agency, told the Trib yesterday that "there has been no loss of life or catastrophic mission failure due to counterfeit parts." Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who requested the GAO report, said, "Counterfeit parts threaten our national security, put our service members at risk and cost American jobs. We must act immediately to ensure that our nation has a strong domestic supply chain that promotes our economic competitiveness and national security." John Pike, director of, a Virginia-based firm specializing in security and defense issues, said Chinese companies are able to imitate original American military components because they sometimes obtain technology "the old-fashioned way: They steal it." Pike said that in aerospace matters, the Chinese have not managed to counterfeit well. Of equipment that might get into the defense supply chain, he said, "I would worry about it not being very good." Shenzhen, a hamlet in the shadow of Hong Kong in the 1970s, has become a city of at least 9 million, according to the latest available official statistics. It is a favorite location for several foreign technological companies -- including U.S.-based Apple Inc. -- that choose to manufacture or assemble their electronic products in China.

The Shenzhen city government says 166 of the world's 500 largest companies have branches there, and it is home to such telecom powers as China's Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.

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