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DLA using botanical DNA to prevent tech counterfeiting

The Defense Logistics Agency is considering expanding its use of botanical DNA technology to prevent counterfeit electronics from being used by the Defense Department. Since August 2012 DOD has required all manufacturers and distributors that want to sell microcircuits to DLA to mark those items with SigNature DNA from Applied DNA (APDN), a provider of DNA-based anti-counterfeiting technology and product-authentication solutions.

In using the technology, suppliers use ink embedded with botanical DNA to mark their products. The DNA can be detected by a hand-held laser reader or swabbed for testing at an APDN lab. The DNA cannot be altered or copied. 

The new DOD products that may be required to be marked with botanical DNA include electrical connectors and semiconductor devices as well as aviation bearings and fittings.

The DLA is also investigating methods of proving authenticity of parts already in inventory, those no longer in production and those from existing long-term contracts, the agency said in an announcement

Additionally, DLA is evaluating whether long-term contracts supplying products not currently requiring botanical DNA markings should be modified or canceled. 

“DOD has become aggressive about keeping counterfeits out of the military supply system, and DLA is leading that effort by working closely with manufacturers to find innovative ways of proving product authenticity,” said Air Force Col. Arthur Beauchamp, deputy director of DLA Logistics Operations’ Technical and Quality Division. 

Microcircuits are the first commodity DLA is targeting because they have a high risk of being counterfeited, said Chris Metz, chief of the Technical and Quality Division in DLA Logistics Operations.  “Microelectronics is where a lot of counterfeit issues have been occurring. It’s also where, if things go wrong, they could really impact system performance and lives,” she said. 

The agency buys about 80,000 different types of microcircuits, which are used in a variety of applications, from aircraft and ships to medical equipment.

The DLA is subsidizing APDN's SigNature DNA marking for defense suppliers. 

Eliminating counterfeit electronics has been an ongoing concern for Defense agencies. A Senate report, “Inquiry Into Counterfeit Electronic Parts in the Department of Defense Supply Chain,” found 1,800 cases of counterfeit electronic parts involving over 1 million suspect parts in 2009-2010 alone. The report concluded China is the dominant source of counterfeit products that enter the DOD supply chain and that the DOD doesn't know the scope and impact of these parts on critical defense systems. Wired reported in 2011 the U.S. Navy bought 59,000 microchips in 2010 that turned out to be counterfeits from China.

In October, APDN announced it signed a 10-year option agreement with four U.S. defense contractors to purchase the SigNature DNA marking technology for use on microcircuits they supply to DOD. At least 22 electronics companies, including L-3 Power Paragon, a subsidiary of L-3 Communications, have signed agreements, most of whom supply parts to DLA, reported APDN

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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