The Department of Defense, in a desperate move to curb counterfeits, has made a new requirement to manufacturers of electronic microcircuits within Federal Supply Class (FSC) 5962 to embed plant based DNA to verify authenticity of the components in the supply chain. The idea is nice, but in practicality it will not be very useful, especially in the short term. There are a few reasons this new requirement may not be so successful. One is the fact that many of the manufacturers of this class of part have already distanced themselves from the military market. In the 60’s the military commanded the component manufacturers attention since they were a large chunk of their business, but as times change the military is just a small portion of the overall microcircuit business. If you add another expense to these manufacturers they might just pare back on producing that class of part at all. Another issue is that these DNA tags will not be so useful until there is a significant quantity of parts in the aftermarket. There is not too much concern buying from authorized distribution, so the first sale of these components will not even need this precautionary technology. It is not until a military contractor has these parts sitting on their shelves for years and when the project they were purchased for has completed and they decide to sell them as excess inventory to a broker. At that point this tag will be useful, but will the accessibility to the DNA records be available at the point of purchase? Is a broker going to be able to get important proprietary DNA coding from the original manufacturer and have the equipment to verify it? Absolutely not! And lastly, the military designs are using more and more COTS (commercial microcircuits) in their designs due to a lack of new designs and investment by component manufacturers in military microcircuit devices. The Federal Supply Class 5962 of parts that this requirement has been added to is not used in many designs on todays DoD contracted products. So, in summary, this change has a very small and possibly unfeasible use, but it could be helpful in very rare occasions in the distant future. For more information see this article.
Robb Hammond is the President of AERI and the former chair of the Aerospace Industry’s Counterfeit Electronic Components Mitigation Standard for independent distributors, AS6081, which has become one of the industry’s most respected documents, as well as being adopted by the Department of Defense. Robb is one of the foremost thought leaders in the industry on counterfeit detection and speaks regularly at conferences around the globe.