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How the Pentagon gets fooled into buying back its own garbage

The U.S. government spends billions of dollars a year on electronics, making it the largest buyer of IT products in the world, according to some estimates.

When those electronics break or become obsolete (they always do!) they become e-waste, one of the fastest growing sources of garbage in the world according to the U.N.

Sometimes, the government sells its e-waste to scrap dealers, who dump the plastic and silicone garbage on boats and ship it to China, India and Africa, says John Shegerian, CEO of Electronic Recyclers International.

Once overseas, “different parts and elements of parts” from the e-waste are “then used to make counterfeit parts, which are then sold back into our defense industry systems.”

Basically, the Pentagon is buying back it’s garbage, thinking it’s buying new parts. A Congressional investigation found 1 million counterfeit parts in different pieces of military hardware, back in 2011.

“There is a flood of counterfeits” said then Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), “and it is putting our military men and women at risk and it is costing us a fortune.”

This week on Shortwave with P.J. Tobia, we explore the national security risks that our own electronic garbage poses.