The U.S. Senate today unanimously approved an amendment to a key Defense funding bill which includes a measure from U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to crack down on criminals who traffic in counterfeit military products. The bipartisan Combating Military Counterfeits Act, which was cosponsored by Senators Leahy (D-VT), Hatch (R-UT), McCain (R-AZ), Kyl (R-AZ), Graham (R-SC), Klobuchar (D-MN), Coons (D-DE), and Blumenthal (D-CT), was included in a larger amendment offered by Senators Levin (D-MI) and McCain. The measure would bolster efforts to protect troops and the United States military supply chain from dangerous counterfeit products.
"Our troops serving overseas have so much to worry about each day -- faulty equipment should not be one of them," said Senator Whitehouse, who recently spoke on the Senate floor in support of the amendment. "The Combating Military Counterfeits Act will enhance the ability of prosecutors to keep counterfeit goods out of the military supply chain. I'm pleased that so many of my colleagues supported this important amendment to better protect our servicemen and women from counterfeit goods."
"Keeping inferior, counterfeit goods from endangering the mission and the well-being of our men and women in uniform should be an important priority for this Congress, and I'm glad our legislation is moving closer to enactment today," Senator Coons said. "Selling counterfeit goods to the military is dangerous, flagrant, and needs to be stopped."
Blumenthal said, "This important step will help end an appalling increase in counterfeit goods and defective equipment sent to our troops. This proactive measure assures secure and effective equipment for brave service men and women serving and sacrificing at home and abroad."
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.
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 addresses this deficiency by creating a new enhanced offense that specifically targets trafficking in military counterfeits and by 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.
The Combating Military Counterfeits Act will complement other government efforts to protect our military supply chain. The Senate Armed Services Committee conducted an important investigation into counterfeit electronic parts in the military supply chain. This investigation led to other provisions in the Levin/McCain amendment that will help keep counterfeits out of the military procurement system. The Administration also is working across agencies to protect the military supply chain from counterfeits, including through its "Operation Chain Reaction" which targets counterfeit military products.
The bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in July. Action on the larger Defense spending measure, in which it is now included, is expected to be completed soon.
The bill is supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Semiconductor Industry Association, DuPont, the International Trademark Association, the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition, as well as A2B Tracking and ON Semiconductor in Rhode Island.