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How NASA fights counterfeiting

Nov. 30, 2012 - 06:39PM   |  
By NICOLE BLAKE JOHNSON   |   Comments

Across government, there isn’t a consistent method for detecting and mitigating the risk of counterfeit technology, and there have also been issues with inconsistent reporting of counterfeit parts.

NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center uses five testing phases and inspections to ensure that aircraft parts are legitimate. Suppliers must complete a detailed survey about their capabilities, including where their parts are manufactured, and the center determines their weaknesses.

The center also requires contractors to document the parts they use, and parts are inspected and tested before any flight, said Steven Foster, lead specialist for procurement quality assurance at the center.

Companies receive a weighted risk score, on a scale of one to 100, based on the survey results and other criteria. The higher the score, the lower risk the company poses to the center, with 52 being the threshold that helps the agency decide whether to do business with a company.

Center officials also verify vendor history using several research tools, including the System for Award Management (SAM) for the Excluded Parties List System, State Department debarred lists, the Defense Logistics Agency and databases provided by outside information collection firms such as ERAI and IHS.

Rory King, director of strategic supply chain solutions for global information firm IHS, pointed to NASA as a benchmark for other agencies looking to beef up their counterfeit detection programs.

Foster said other agencies are looking at his center’s work as a model.

One of the struggles in determining authentic products is that companies may not want to share information about their products for competitive reasons, said Brian Miller, inspector general at the General Services Administration. But Miller said he has worked closely with companies such as Cisco to identify counterfeit technology and has also reached out to other large information technology vendors to strengthen working relationships.

In 2010, Miler launched the Government Infrastructure Protection Initiative within his Office of Investigations to protect the federal procurement supply chain from counterfeit products.

“We hope for criminal conviction, but it doesn’t always end that way,” Miller said. “You have to prove any crime beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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