Judge Orders DOD to Release Information on Contracting Program Under Fire

The Department of Defense has until Wednesday under a federal court order to produce information on a contracting program that critics say has been harmful to small businesses while benefitting large defense firms.

Two Sikorsky Seahawk helicopters head to the USS Arlington during the NATO exercise Bold Alligator 2014, on October 31, 2014, off the east coast of the US. The international war games, Bold Alligator 2014, is about a rapid response for today's crises with 19 NATO countries participating with 17 ships and 2 submarines. (AFP/Paul J. Richards)
Two Sikorsky Seahawk helicopters head to the USS Arlington during the NATO exercise Bold Alligator 2014, on October 31, 2014, off the east coast of the U.S.  (AFP/Paul J. Richards)

U.S. District Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California issued a ruling last week in favor of the American Small Business League, an advocacy group, in its Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Pentagon. Alsup ordered the Pentagon to release documents on Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation’s participation in the DOD’s Comprehensive Small Business Subcontracting Plan.

This could set a far-reaching precedent, ASBL spokesman Steve Godfrey told TheBlaze, even though for now it affects just one of the contractors.

Specifically, Godfrey said, small business subcontracting data cannot be withheld “because it is not trade secret or proprietary information.”

If the Defense Department appeals to the U.S. Ninth Circuit and loses, records of other large firms benefiting from the Pentagon’s small business program could also be opened.

“What this means is that the Pentagon will ultimately have to release over 25 years’ worth of secret data that no one has ever seen before, not even the [Government Accountability Office],” Godfrey said, adding that the data “we believe will uncover over one trillion dollars in fraud in government contracting at the Pentagon.”

The Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program began in 1990 with the stated goal of improving access to federal subcontracting for small American firms. But the program has come under fire from small business advocates and members of Congress for providing loopholes to large firms such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, GE, BAE, Harris Corp., and Sikorsky which circumvent federal contracting law mandating small business subcontracting goals.

For its part, the DOD wants to scrap the program. Earlier this year, Pentagon spokeswoman Maureen Schumann told TheBlaze, “Although well-intended, the program has not produced quantifiable results. The Department of Defense position is to not have Congress extend the CSP.”

Schumann told TheBlaze the DOD would not comment on pending litigation.

The ASBL filed its FOIA lawsuit in federal district court in San Francisco in May to get information on participation in the controversial program with Lockheed Martin, Sikorsky and British Aerospace Engineering (BAE). In October the organization narrowed its request in a motion for summary judgment on just documents dealing with Sikorsky.