A Department of Homeland Security Emeritus Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

Intersections of Illicit Trafficking and Counterfeit Parts Workshop

Intersections of Illicit Trafficking and Counterfeit Parts Workshop

Thursday, October 28, 2021
10:30am - 4:00pm


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On Thursday, October 28 at 10:30 a.m. ET, START and the Center of Advanced Life Cycle Engineering (CALCE) will co-host the Intersections of Illicit Trafficking and Counterfeit Parts Workshop, sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). This event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are required. If you have any questions, please email the START events team at start-events@umd.edu.

This project focuses on the disruption of the supply chains for counterfeit hardware used in critical systems. “Critical systems,” in the context of this project are defined as systems associated with human safety (e.g. transportation, medical), the delivery of critical services (infrastructure, energy generation), important humanitarian and military missions, and global economic stability. These systems are costly to procure, are generally expected to have a long service life, and as a result, they must be supported for long periods of time.

But counterfeit parts manufacturing is only a single thread of a larger tapestry. While the world’s largest firms have cracked down on illicit and illegal labor practices, illicit and illegal labor remains a key part of innumerable supply chains. Narcotics production is a hazardous criminal enterprise, but increased professionalization and the availability of quality parts and chemical precursors from China have allowed narcotrafficking cartels to manufacture massive quantities of fentanyl. Weapons traffickers and criminal entities now use additive manufacturing for weapons development and modifications. Trafficking of wildlife, agricultural products, and animal parts present various serious concerns including the introduction of invasive species to the spread, and novel development, of viruses.

Often, these differing types of criminal behavior are siloed, but as transnational criminal entities continue to replicate neoliberal business practices, they are agglomerating into polycrime entities. These polycrime entities bridge different lines of the trafficking business. Humans are trafficked for forced or illegal labor. People have been trafficked and forced to serve as caretakers of illegal cannabis plants. Mexican drug cartels have purchased 3D printers and hired engineers to develop weapons modifications, uparmor vehicles, and develop manufacturing techniques that increase the potency of various narcotics.

This workshop seeks to bring together social scientists, engineers, law enforcement, policymakers, and industry to push us out of our comfort zones to build connections and identify gaps.  Individual sessions will focus on modalities of trafficking: arms trafficking and construction, wildlife trafficking, labor trafficking, and narcotics manufacturing and trafficking. The conference will end with a convocation meant to sum up the presentations and serve as an opportunity for the wider group to discuss new-found connections and overlapping priorities.