The use of the term trusted supplier within Section 818 of the FY2012 NDAA is an unfortunate choice of words on the part of Congress. It’s use here differs significantly from its current use with respect to the “DoD Trusted Foundry Program”, an accreditation plan for design, fabrication, packaging and test services across a broad technology range for specialized governmental applications.
I speculate this new application for ‘trusted supplier’ came from those who were very much aware of the trusted foundry program and began extending the concept to the counterfeit parts issue. Case in point…
During an industry meeting in May 2007 where I presented counterfeit part findings and observations linking the problem to riskier elements of the supply chain, attendees described our findings as a business case for expanding the scope of the trusted supplier concept. A number of us close to the counterfeit parts issue have cautioned people about confusing the two issues, but this seems to have taken on a life of its own and confusion abounds today.
Some companies who operate trusted foundries have contributed to this confusion. I have attended several Government / Industry meetings and conferences over the past few years where companies who operate trusted foundries presented their capability as the solution to the counterfeit parts problem. These companies also toured The Hill with this message. If you review the transcript from the 8 November SASC hearing, questions from committee members to industry panelist reveal that they have been lead to believe the ‘trusted foundry’ equates to ‘the trusted supplier solution to the counterfeit parts problem’. The end result was dialog between panelists and committee members talking over each other’s heads.
Do we honestly believe that the capabilities of the trusted foundries can fill the gaps where OEMs and DOD are vulnerable to counterfeits? Here is an example where industry can be its own worst enemy.