Murphy to Pentagon: More care needed in selecting military suppliers

A report that counterfeit semiconductors were shipped to the U.S. Naval Submarine Base for use on Groton-based nuclear submarines led U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy on Wednesday to call on the Pentagon to be more rigorous in its choice of military suppliers.

Murphy, D-Conn., in a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel sent Wednesday, said he had "great concern" after reading a report in The Day that cited the sale of counterfeit semiconductors from Hong Kong and China to the sub base by a company controlled by Peter Picone, a military-components supplier from Methuen, Mass.

Picone was charged this week on an eight-count indictment with peddling counterfeit military components to the sub base as well as unidentified contractors in Connecticut and Florida. There was no indication in the indictment whether the suspect parts, shipped in 2011 and 2012, ever were used aboard a nuclear sub.

"His case is only the latest example of the widespread problem that I brought to the attention of your predecessor, Secretary (Leon) Panetta, last year following the release of a Senate Armed Services Committee ... report that found more than 1,800 instances of counterfeit electronic parts in the defense supply chain," Murphy said in his letter to Hagel.

Murphy said counterfeit items represent a threat to the U.S. military's supply chain.

"Mr. Picone's case reinforces the fact that China is our biggest threat when it comes to counterfeit parts in our supply chain, and that the Chinese government appears unconcerned with cracking down on this type of business practice," Murphy said. "This case underscores why we need to be doing everything we can to foster domestic production of these indispensable items."

Murphy, a strong proponent of efforts to encourage government spending on American products, asked Hagel to "use all the tools at your disposal to invest in the domestic production of critical items in the defense supply chain and continue to closely monitor and punish those who would attempt to sell counterfeit goods to the Department of Defense."

Murphy did not raise the specter of national-security concerns, but the indictment of Picone said counterfeit semiconductors can contain malicious code and other dangers that could lead to intercepted communications and computer intrusions.

Bad parts also can result in mechanical malfunctions that could potentially be life-threatening, the indictment said.

l.howard@theday.com

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