Test Case

A defense contractor is fined

"As an airplane or missile becomes more complicated," warned James Fallows in his 1981 book National Defense, "the probability that all its parts will be working at the same time goes down." Indeed, the reliability and firepower of modern U.S. military hardware depend heavily on increasingly complex electronic circuits. This worrisome vulnerability prompted Pentagon officials more than two years ago to launch an extensive probe of microchip suppliers in order to spot any lax manufacturing practices. Last week the inquiry produced an indictment against a major electronics company.

A federal court in San Francisco levied stiff penalties against...

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