Maryland Center of Excellence for Sustainment Sciences

Research Project: Using Enterprise Network Models to Disrupt the Operations of Illicit Counterfeit Part Supply Chains for Critical Systems

Counterfeit parts have become widespread over the last 20 years, and their infiltration into critical systems poses a significant economic risk as well as a risk to human life and national security. Critical systems include those associated with human safety (e.g., transportation, medical), the delivery of critical services (e.g., infrastructure, energy generation), humanitarian and military missions, and global economic stability. These systems are expensive to procure, must be supported for very long periods of time, and the consequences, if compromised by counterfeit parts, can be catastrophic. This project will develop methods of disrupting the counterfeit hardware networks for critical systems guided by socio-technical network development and modeling, and through consideration of the counterfeiting network’s connections to other illicit trafficking networks. Counterfeit hardware addressed in this project includes electronic and non-electronic hardware and hardware that is created via additive manufacturing.

The majority of the treatment of the counterfeit electronic part problem to date is focused on the detection of counterfeits, which is necessary, but represents treating the symptom, not the cause. In this project, we will conduct a series of workshops that include stakeholders from industry, policy, legal, supply chain, government acquisition, industrial security, and anti-trafficking organizations. The workshops will be used to guide socio-technical network development and modeling, and include consideration of the counterfeiting network’s connections to other illicit trafficking networks. The technical attributes of the problem include: part flows within sustainment networks for critical systems, procurement and acquisition practices, counterfeit detection technologies, and inventory management. The socio-attributes include trust, communication (including significant counterfeit reporting stigmas), and incentive reactions. The network models developed will consider both commercial transactions and military acquisition systems to enable identification of possible points of disruption in those networks. The model for the counterfeit part network developed in this project will form an important and necessary enabler for possible future blockchain-based solutions and is an essential component of a digital twin for the supply chain for critical systems.

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Several workshops were held during this project.