US DLA considers widening DNA marking plans

Placing a chipThe US Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) is considering expanding the use of DNA marking to protect spare parts and components from counterfeiting.

The use of DNA markers to prevent counterfeit microcircuits destined for use by the US military entering the supply chain was first mandated towards the end of last year, when the DLA required the technology to be applied to all Federal Supply Class (FSC) 5962 electronic microcircuits.

The mandate proved controversial as there is only one supplier able to meet the requirements - Applied DNA Sciences (APDN) - which has already signed more than two dozen contracts to supply its Signature DNA markers to microcircuit suppliers.

At the time the requirement was announced the US Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) said the measure would not solve the counterfeit problem, claiming it could be "easily circumvented because a counterfeiter need only mimic the material of the marker". It also said it would burden manufacturers without reducing risk and was effectively creating a monopoly on marker supply.

Despite the criticism the DLA has now said it is considering expanding the range of components that will require anti-counterfeit marking to include the following, according to a recent presentation made at its 2013 Electrical and Electronics Industry Outreach Forum:

  • FSC 3110, Bearings (Aviation)
  • FSC 4730, Fittings, Hoses, and Tube (Land & Maritime or L&M)
  • FSC 5325, Fasteners (Troop Support)
  • FSC 5935, Electrical Connectors (L&M)
  • FSC 5961, Semi-conductor Devices (L&M)

The expansion would mean that these categories of products would only be procured by the US government if the vendor agrees to apply the markers, as is already the case with FSC 5692 microcircuits.

The agency manages a massive 548 different classes of components and parts covering 5.1m individual items, and while electronic components are considered at the highest risk if counterfeiting it is also concerned about engine accessories, pipes and fittings, hardware and abrasives and vehicle components.

"Counterfeiting is a growing risk to mission readiness, personnel safety and national security," said the DLA at the event, noting that globalization has created vulnerabilities in the supply chain.

DNA marking is the preferred choice to protect genuine parts because it is relatively inexpensive, cannot be copied, provides forensic level authentication, does not impact the functionality of the item and can be used to check goods at multiple points in the supply chain. The DLA has already said it will reimburse suppliers the costs of DNA marker material.

APDN is clearly delighted with the news, and chief executive James Hayward said the company's "commercial experience in marking everything from copper cables to plastic sheaths to textiles is transferable to these FSCs."

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