Frequently Asked Questions for DNA Marking

November 8, 2012




Q. What end products/equipment will this new requirement help to protect?


A. The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) top priority is warfighter support. As a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) combat support agency, we are firmly committed to a robust counterfeit mitigation strategy that protects our warfighters and the vital missions that they perform. The DLA is modifying microcircuit technical requirements to help prevent counterfeits from entering DLA’s Supply Chain by requiring deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) marking of authentic products.  The DLA procures and supplies microcircuits for a broad range of applications within weapons systems and support equipment.  This new requirement will help to protect DoD weapon systems.  Many items which DLA manages are used in more than one weapon system.  The specific list and number of parts which will be subject to the requirement is being defined by DLA using a phased-in approach.  While the initial commodity being targeted is microelectronics, the technology could be utilized with other commodities.  DLA appreciates our supply chain partners’ recognition of the significant risk that counterfeit semiconductors pose to the men and woman serving our country.  It is a threat that demands immediate and thoughtful countermeasures.  We welcome contributions by our industry partners, including groups such as the Semiconductor Industry Association, in our efforts to prevent counterfeit semiconductors from entering the DLA Supply Chain.


Q. What are the new requirements for DNA marking when selling to the DLA?


A. The new requirement is a DNA marking for DLA-managed items within Federal Supply Class 5962, Electronic Microcircuits.  DLA deems the microcircuits at a high risk for counterfeiting. In August, 2012, DLA placed notices on the DLA Internet Bid Board System (DIBBS) and DLA Supplier Information Resource Center (SIRC) web sites introducing the new marking requirement.  The initial requirement applied to a subset of microcircuits called Generalized Emulation of Microcircuits (GEM), which are supplied to DLA by SRI International.  DLA is also applying the DNA marking requirement to all DLA-managed items within FSC 5962 after November 15, 2012.


Q. Does the DNA marking requirement apply only to DLA requirements?


A. Yes, the DNA marking requirement only applies to solicitations/awards issued by DLA for FSC 5962 items.


Q. Will this apply to any part built to an FSC 5962 standard microcircuit drawing (SMD) or only parts sold directly to DLA?


A. The DNA marking requirement only applies to solicitations/awards issued by DLA for FSC 5962 items sold directly to DLA.


Q. Will prime contractors need to validate compliance to DNA markers?


A. Currently the DLA requirement applies to specific solicitations for FSC 5962 items provided directly to DLA.  Prime contractors may consider the DNA marking technique in their implementation of any electronic counterfeit item prevention programs, but are not required to by DLA at this time.


Q. How will open contracts be impacted?


A. DLA will evaluate open contracts on a case-by-case basis to determine whether a modification will be initiated to incorporate the new requirement.  Open contracts judged to have the potential for significant future product deliveries or risk are likely to be modified, or possibly canceled in order to issue a new solicitation with the DNA marking requirement.


Q.  How will existing inventories be impacted (e.g., at the manufacturers, authorized distributors)?


A. DNA marking is not intended to validate existing inventory, or existing product in the field.  DLA uses other tools and processes to meet this need.  DNA marking, in conjunction with trusted suppliers and approved DLA vetting processes, will apply to all new receipts of FSC 5962 in our depots.


Q. How does this affect suppliers?


A. Suppliers, who provide DLA FSC 5962 items, will be required to provide items marked with a unique botanical SigNature® DNA mark supplied by Applied DNA Sciences or its authorized licensees, if any.  The DNA mark used shall be unique to the supplier of the part.  Suppliers can apply a covert (invisible) DNA mark on the part.  The contractor's ink utilized for part marking can be infused with the SigNature® DNA material and applied overtly.  In addition, suppliers will be required to retain traceability documentation that demonstrates the items provided under the contract to DLA have been marked with DNA material produced by Applied DNA Sciences or an authorized licensee, and that the DNA marking is unique to the contractor.  Any supplier which sells directly to DLA must comply with solicitation requirements for the DNA marking.  DLA will assess potential suppliers during the contract award process.  Suppliers that want to be competitive for supplying FSC 5962 must use the DNA mark and submit a fair and reasonably priced quote/offer that fully complies with all other terms and conditions of the solicitation.


Q. Will Qualified Products List (QPL) microcircuits be required to have DNA marking?


A. Yes, in general, advanced microcircuits and hybrid microcircuits comprise FSC 5962 and have specifications for qualification data (i.e., on the Qualified Products List).  These items supplied to DLA must have the DNA marking.  The requirement to include the DNA mark shall be governed by the specific provisions of a solicitation and DLA’s related acquisition strategy.


Q. Will QSLD distributors have to place a DNA mark on the microcircuit?


A. Yes, effective November 15, 2012, for new DLA solicitations and contracts for items falling within FSC 5962, suppliers need to include the DNA mark.




Won’t work/credibility


Q. How much of a difference do you think this will make in the fight against counterfeit electronics?


A. DLA’s top priority is warfighter support.  As a DoD agency, we are firmly committed to a robust counterfeit prevention strategy that protects our warfighters and the vital missions they perform.  By requiring DNA marking of authentic products we mitigate counterfeits from entering our supply system.  The new marking requirement is just one tool however in a comprehensive DLA program to protect DLA Supply Chain from counterfeits.  Other tools include: product testing, buying from qualified and reputable sources, and software systems that detect anomalies in the buying process.


The DLA strategy includes the continuous application of new or updated tools to detect and prevent counterfeit items as the tactics of the counterfeiters continuously evolve.  DLA is mandating authentication marking of the microcircuits using DNA for now, based on a successful R&D project.  We are open to other solutions and tools as we learn about them.  DLA’s efforts to socialize the concept of authentication marking and encourage broader acceptance is a positive influence on the DOD supply chain participants’ risk management practices and solutions development. DLA developed a Request for Information for authentication marking, which is open to additional technological solutions. DLA issued the Request for Information on October 15, 2012 with responses due by November 15, 2012. 


DNA marking is not the single cure for the counterfeit problem.  The initial DNA marking R&D project successfully marked approximately 14,000 parts at a domestic original component manufacturer (OCM). The second project marked more than 350,000 at a major offshore fabrication facility.  DLA also engaged one of the world’s largest non-profit research and development organizations to attempt to defeat the technology. To date, those chemical and mechanical defeat efforts have not been successful.  DLA has also forensically authenticated 100 percent of DNA collection swabs submitted during a trial implementation. These results and others like it have provided DLA a basis for moving forward with implementation.


Q. Has Applied DNA Science’s technology been adequately tested?


A. DLA views DNA marking as a proven method to combat counterfeiting for electronics and other commodities.  DNA marking has been sufficiently tested to meet the needs of DLA.  DLA testing included a comprehensive R&D project to test the feasibility of using DNA marking for FSC 5962.  The R&D effort lasted over 18 months and included industry participation from Raytheon, Northrup Grumman, Altera, SMT, and SRI International.  Additionally, through one of DLA’s R&D partners, an independent lab was contracted to “defeat” the DNA marking.  The lab conducted extensive attempts to defeat the mark and was unsuccessful.  Applied DNA Sciences has also done survivability testing.  Some of the surface types tested by Applied DNA Science include aluminum, ceramic, glass, gold, plastic, and some metals.  The Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering (CALCE) and the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) are each conducting further research.  Such research represents opportunities for industry support of those continuing efforts.



Not vetted in industry group


Q. Did DLA solicit input from stakeholders before issuing the mandate?


A. Over the past 2 years, DLA engaged industry to a reasonable degree as part of the DNA marking R&D project.  The SigNature® DNA technology and DLA evolving plans for microcircuits have been briefed extensively at a wide variety of venues. Some of those include the Diminishing Manufacturing Sources and Material Shortages (DMSMS) and International Microelectronics and Packaging Society conferences. In addition, we have addressed other government events such as the Missile Defense Agency’s Parts, Materials, and Processes Board (PMPB) and NASA’s Quality Leadership Forum (QLF). DLA also engaged several industry stakeholders including Altera, Rochester Electronics, SRI International, Texas Instruments, and others.


DLA received both industry support and objections during industry engagement.  DLA is extending its efforts to engage industry in discussing DNA marking and other solutions.  Recently DLA met with representatives of the Semiconductor Industry Association which had member attendance at the many outreach activities of the DNA marking R&D project over the last two years.  DLA reiterated the Agency’s desire to work with industry and other government agencies to address the problem of counterfeit microcircuits infiltrating the military supply chain. DLA participated in the JEDEC JC-13 Government Liaison Committee Meeting, October 1-4, 2012, in Columbus, OH. The Request for Information regarding other technologies illustrates DLA’s continuing strategy to engage industry.



Concern with Applied DNA Sciences


Q. Will the agency contract directly with Applied DNA Sciences to provide this service?


A. DLA is not contracting with Applied DNA Sciences or any other company to provide the marking material.  Applied DNA Sciences may enter into contracts with companies that want to supply DNA marked microcircuits to DLA.  DLA will initially contract with Applied DNA Sciences for certain services, such as forensic analysis testing of microcircuits to confirm whether they are properly marked with the correct DNA marking material.


Q. Why has Applied DNA Sciences not provided more information?


A.  Applied DNA Sciences continues to work diligently to address inquiries it receives.  The company is somewhat constrained by the DNA Marking program start-up elements under the purview of the DLA.  DLA is working to inform Applied DNA Sciences of additional programmatic bases needed for their ability to completely respond.


Q. Is Applied DNA Sciences a viable, credible and stable company?


A.  Applied DNA Sciences is one of a number of industry partners DLA has in combating counterfeiting.  Applied DNA Sciences has demonstrated its viability, credibility, and stability to DLA’s satisfaction.  As with any commodity, DLA has in-place contingency plans in the event a primary supplier is not abley to support DLA’s requirements.



Sole source; competition


Q. Why is Applied DNA Sciences the only source for the DNA markings?


A. DLA is mandating authentication marking of the microcircuits using an Applied DNA Sciences product for now based on a successful, extensive DLA Research and Development project using and testing the product and technology. Concurrent with mandating authentication marking using an Applied DNA Sciences product, DLA is requesting input concerning possible alternative sources of both DNA marking and alternative marking technologies through a Request of Information that was released on October 15, 2012.


Q. Who are Applied DNA Sciences’ authorized licensees that can supply the marking product?


A.  Information about any Applied DNA Sciences’ authorized licensee program should be obtained by contacting Applied DNA Sciences directly.





Q. Will the DNA marking requirement greatly increase semiconductor manufacturing costs?


A. DLA recognizes that implementing DNA marking will likely increase costs, and that the costs will be passed on to DLA during the procurement of the parts.  The costs are not expected to be significant. DLA accepts that the additional costs are the result of the additional security needed to protect our warfighters from counterfeits. 


Applied DNA Sciences is trying to reduce the cost of their technology. Applied DNA Sciences has shared pricing data with DLA headquarters, DLA Land & Maritime, and several microcircuit providers. Based on the pricing data the costs of their technology are decreasing.  We expect this trend to continue with greater adoption of the technology and other competitive factors.


DLA recognizes that implementing DNA marking might create additional logistical requirements for suppliers, which will most likely be passed on to DLA through increased costs for acquiring microcircuits with SigNature® DNA. 



Alternate solutions


Q. Why was Applied DNA Sciences named in the announcement? Is it unusual for DLA to single out a specific company?  


A. DLA selected Applied DNA Science marking technology (i.e. SigNature® DNA) to help mitigate counterfeits for microcircuits under the (FSC) 5962, after nearly two years of extensive research and development (R&D) on the Applied DNA Sciences’ solution.  Applied DNA Science is a solution that supports DLA’s immediate need to protect the warfighter from counterfeits.  DLA anticipates that other marking and identification technologies will be identified through its Request for Information on alternatives to DNA marking released October 15, 2012.


Q. Does DLA buy similar technology from other companies to curb the supply of counterfeit parts in the supply chain? If so, which? 


A. DLA is not buying Applied DNA Science’s technology.  But DLA is buying some Applied DNA Science’s services and equipment for DLA use.  DLA is open to other solutions and tools as we learn about them, but at this time DLA is not currently buying similar technology.  We also appreciate industry support for such anti-counterfeiting initiatives, including those associated with interdiction and law enforcement.  DLA agrees with those in industry who believe much needs doing in this arena.  Realistically, we recognize that there will never be enough resources to keep out counterfeits by enforcement alone.


DLA’s efforts to socialize the concept of authentication marking and encourage broader acceptance is a positive influence on the DOD supply chain participants’ risk management practices and solutions development.  DLA issued a Request for Information on October 15, 2012, for authentication marking using additional technological solutions. Responses to the Request for Information are due by November 15, 2012.  In the meantime we will continue to pursue the solution at hand. Delay in addressing the counterfeit threat is not a viable option. The sooner we begin to prevent and aggressively deter counterfeits, and the more difficult we make it for counterfeiters; the better we safeguard the men and women who serve our nation.  DLA looks forward to a productive collaboration with our industry partners, including representative groups such as the Semiconductor Industry Association, in identifying and employing the best weapons in this struggle against counterfeit electronics.