June 20, 2011

Whitehouse Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Crack Down on Counterfeit Products Sold to the Military

Counterfeit Products Threaten Troops and Impair Military Readiness

Washington, DC – In response to increasing numbers of counterfeit products in the military supply chain, U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Chris Coons (D-DE) have introduced bipartisan legislation to crack down on criminals who traffic in these dangerous goods.  The Combating Military Counterfeits Act of 2011 would increase penalties and create a heightened criminal offense for trafficking in counterfeit military products.

“Our troops serving overseas have enough things to worry about each day – faulty equipment distributed by unscrupulous criminals should not be one of them,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “Our men and women in uniform deserve the best, and this legislation will help, with harsher penalties for those who would send them into the field with shoddy or phony equipment.”

“Especially at a time when so many of our troops are deployed, it is disturbing to think that inferior, counterfeit goods are making it into the hands of our men and women in uniform,” Senator Coons said. “It is a dangerous, flagrant practice and it needs to be stopped. This bill would increase the punishment for those who sell our military counterfeit goods that could cause injury, compromise combat operations, or disclose classified information. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this bill and look forward to working for its passage.”

A January 2010 study by the Commerce Department quoted a Defense Department official estimating that counterfeit aircraft parts were “leading to a 5 to 15 percent annual decrease in weapons systems reliability.”  Similarly, the Government Accountability Office has reported that the Defense Department discovered in testing that it had procured body armor that was misrepresented as being “Kevlar,” and that a supplier sold the Defense Department a personal computer circuit that it falsely claimed was a $7,000 circuit that met the specifications of a missile guidance system. 

The Combating Military Counterfeits Act of 2011 complements other government efforts to protect the United State military supply chain.  The Senate Armed Services Committee has opened an important investigation into counterfeit electronic parts in the military supply chain.  The Administration is working across agencies to protect the military supply chain from counterfeits, including through the recently commenced “Operation Chain Reaction” which targets counterfeit military products. 

Under the current counterfeit trafficking statute, sentences imposed on traffickers in military counterfeits do not reflect the serious dangers that these products pose to our troops.  The Combating Military Counterfeits Act would address this deficiency by creating a new criminal provision that specifically targets trafficking in military counterfeits and increasing penalties for criminals who know that the counterfeit product they sell is intended for use by the military or is identified as meeting military standards.


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