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DorobekInsider: BusinessWeek says DOD dealing with counterfeit computer chips

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BusinessWeek has a really excellent story, which they headline, Dangerous Fakes, about the Defense Department dealing with counterfeit computer components — and how those defective computer components from China are getting into U.S. warplanes and ships.

The American military faces a growing threat of potentially fatal equipment failure—and even foreign espionage—because of counterfeit computer components used in warplanes, ships, and communication networks. Fake microchips flow from unruly bazaars in rural China to dubious kitchen-table brokers in the U.S. and into complex weapons. Senior Pentagon officials publicly play down the danger, but government documents, as well as interviews with insiders, suggest possible connections between phony parts and breakdowns.

In November 2005, a confidential Pentagon-industry program that tracks counterfeits issued an alert that “BAE Systems experienced field failures,” meaning military equipment malfunctions, which the large defense contractor traced to fake microchips. Chips are the tiny electronic circuits found in computers and other gear.

The alert from the Government-Industry Data Exchange Program (GIDEP), reviewed by BusinessWeek, said two batches of chips “were never shipped” by their supposed manufacturer, Maxim Integrated Products in Sunnyvale, Calif. “Maxim considers these parts to be counterfeit,” the alert states. (In response to BusinessWeek’s questions, BAE said the alert had referred erroneously to field failures. The company denied there were any malfunctions.)

Continue reading the story here.

Some of these fakes are being blamed on DOD’s increasing reliance on commercial products.

The same BW team that wrote this story did a great story on the government’s cyber-security initiatives that was on the cover of BusinessWeek back in April. Both stories are well worth reading.

UPDATE: We had BusinessWeek’s Brian Grown on Federal News Radio’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris talking about the story. You can hear that interview here. [.mp3]

Written by cdorobek

October 5, 2008 at 10:43 PM

Posted in DOD, press, procurement, security

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DorobekInsider: Most read posts of the week

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Written by cdorobek

October 5, 2008 at 10:58 AM

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DorobekInsider: Check out ‘Virtual Alabama’ Tuesday

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So this year, I have gone on (and on and on … and on…) about the Alabama Department of Homeland Security’s remarkable program Virtual Alabama. Last week, I even had the director of the Alabama Homeland Security Department Jim Walker on Federal News Radio’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris last week talking about it. [You can hear that interview here .mp3]

In a moment, why I’m so fascinated by it, but… if you have heard me go on and on and on about it and you haven’t seen Virtual Alabama yet and you are in DC, Tuesday is your chance. Google is sponsoring an event on Tuesday at the DC Googleplex on Tuesday morning — I’ll be moderating. You can get information and register here. (They are going to be in New York later in the week, I believe. I’ll try to get more information and post it for you.)

I’m always somewhat afraid that I’ll over-sell the coolness of Virtual Alabama — that people will see it and so, ‘Well, that’s OK.’ But most of the people who see it come away saying, ‘You know what we could do with that? We could do…’

And that is why am I so fascinated by Virtual Alabama. Because I think it is such a marvelous example of government 2.0 because it empowers people to use tools in ways that people may have never expected. And THEN they find out how inexpensive Virtual Alabama was to build.

If you don’t know much about Virtual Alabama, the program is essentially a mash-up on a Google Earth platform. (An important note: Alabama purchased a enterprise version of Google Earth, so all of the information resides on Alabama servers. Google Earth simply provides the platform, but the company does not have access to any of the data.) A mash-up is the Web 2.0 term for taking data from various sources and overlaying it on a map.

It is easy to forget how powerful it is to see information on a map. It can transform data. Imagine, for example, you see a list of addresses. It may mean something, but it is complex to understand. Put those addresses on a map and –walla! — that data is magically transformed. It becomes much more powerful.

This is essentially what Virtual Alabama does — it puts information at the fingertips of government officials who need to make decisions. In military speak, it is called “situational awareness” — and that describes it, getting awareness of a situation before you get there. So Virtual Alabama allows first responders to get access to information about fire hydrants, properties, neighboring fire departments… and it pulls it all together in one place. Very powerful stuff.

One of the great things about my old job — and my new one — is that I get to see all of these things… and if I’m fascinated by them, I assume you will be too. So FCW put Virtual Alabama on the cover of the magazine earlier this year and, as I mentioned, I have had them on Federal News Radio. (The National Academy of Public Administration’s Collaboration Project has a nice write-up on Virtual Alabama.)

And I didn’t even get into the cost of this program — or relative lack there of. Somebody will have to ask about that on Tuesday.

There are some great lessons to learn from Virtual Alabama, I think. We’ll try to tap into some of them on Tuesday as well.

So if you’re interested, come check it out and explore the realm of the possible.

Written by cdorobek

October 5, 2008 at 10:35 AM