GAO: Counterfeit military parts easily obtainable from Chinese companies

A government watchdog report found that counterfeit military parts remain readily available from Chinese companies for use in U.S. weapons systems, which drew quick condemnation from leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The Government Accountability Office report released Monday — which set up a sting operation to get Chinese companies to sell counterfeit parts to a fake company GAO invented — was fresh evidence that China is not cracking down on counterfeiters, Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in a joint statement Monday.

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“These findings should outrage every American,” Levin said in a statement. “The Chinese government’s refusal to shut down counterfeiting that occurs openly in their country puts our national security and the safety of our military men and women at risk.”

The GAO study created a fictitious company to purchase military parts over the Internet. The company received responses from 396 vendors, including 334 from China.

The company eventually purchased 16 parts from 13 Chinese vendors, and all were either suspected counterfeit or bogus, the GAO found.

Seven of the parts had authentic part numbers but were out of production or obsolete, five had authentic part numbers but their date codes were beyond the last production date, and four were requests for invalid part numbers, which the GAO said “demonstrates their willingness to sell parts that do not technically exist.”

Levin and McCain included provisions in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act to crack down on counterfeit military parts, including stepped-up inspections for imported electronic parts.

The GAO report followed a committee investigation released in November on counterfeit parts, which Levin called a “clear and present danger.”

Levin on Monday urged the Treasury Department and Department of Homeland Security to put in place the powers that were included in the Defense authorization legislation.

“Since China won’t act, we must,” Levin said.