Home > News > DOD Must Give Sikorsky Contract Data To Small Biz Group
 Return to previous page


DOD Must Give Sikorsky Contract Data To Small Biz Group

By Khadijah M. Britton
November 26, 2014

Law360, New York (November 26, 2014, 2:42 PM ET) -- A California federal court has ordered the Pentagon to cough up never-seen subcontracting data on Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. to an organization representing small businesses, saying the information was not exempt from Freedom of Information Act disclosure because it did not expose privileged financial or business information about Sikorsky. 


In his order, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of California William Alsup told the U.S. Department of Defense it had to release Sikorsky’s Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan to the American Small Business League by Dec. 3 or appeal his decision to the Ninth Circuit.


"We are thankful that the court rejected the vague 'confidential commercial or financial information' claim raised by the Department of Defense," ASBL attorney Robert Belshaw told Law360. "Hopefully the results of this decision will go a long way towards revealing the extent to which large defense contractors are complying with the Small Business Act's mandate that women-, veteran- and minority-owned small business subcontractors receive a fair share of the billions of federal funds annually allocated to defense spending."


On Aug. 9, 2013, ASBL filed an FOIA request for Sikorsky’s 2013 master Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan for participation in the Department of Defense’s Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program, or CSPTP.


According to the ASBL’s brief, the Small Business Act of 1953 would normally require large contractors to submit individual subcontracting reports and summary subcontracting reports to show how government contracts and subcontracts are being awarded to small businesses.


However, since 1990, when Congress passed the “test program” as part of a defense appropriations bill, some large defense contractors have been able to do away with these reports and instead file comprehensive subcontracting plans, which are meant to identify “all subcontract amounts awarded to small businesses on all government contracts the prime contractor fulfills,” according to the ASBL.


The organization’s FOIA request sought access to Sikorsky’s version of this document, to see if it does, indeed, show awarding of subcontracts to eligible small businesses.


The organization accused the test program of “eliminat[ing] all transparency on publicly available small business subcontracting information and any penalties for Pentagon prime contractors that failed to comply with federally mandated small business subcontracting goals” in a statement to Law360.


After the Pentagon placed the ASBL’s request in its complex processing queue, thus indefinitely postponing the agency’s response, the organization brought suit on May 12.


The ASBL then sought summary judgment on whether the documents it requested could be disclosed, “in whole or in part.” The DOD retorted that the organization’s motion was moot because the agency had determined that the requested plan could not be released, applying the FOIA exemption for trade secrets and privileged or confidential commercial or financial information.


As Judge Alsup noted, the agency did not attempt to apply any other FOIA exemptions in any of its pre-trial motions.


“Neither the lodged document nor [Sikorsky’s representative’s] declaration adequately shows how the redacted information is ‘likely to cause substantial competitive injury’ if disclosed,” Judge Alsup said.


Further, Judge Alsup rejected the DOD’s raising of a second FOIA exemption after briefing, saying the contact information for Sikorsky staff was available online, and as such, amounted to a “trivial privacy interest” for which an FOIA exemption could not apply.


If the agency appeals, the ASBL says it could open the door for the organization to access all other similar subcontracting plans and help it in its mission to uncover whether government money is going to small businesses or merely being held up in larger businesses whose subsidiaries are “grandfathered in” under the law because they were acquired within the last five years.


“We have the opportunity to establish some useful precedent in the Ninth Circuit,” Belshaw told Law360. "A favorable ruling by that court would definitely ease the way to getting these documents released.”


Current participants in the CSPTP include the Boeing Co., BAE Systems PLC, GE Capital Aviation Services, General Dynamics Corp., Hamilton Sundstrand Corp., Harris Corp., L-3 Communications Holdings Inc., Lockheed Martin Corp., Northrop Grumman Corp., United Technologies Corp.'s aircraft engines subsidiary Pratt & Whitney, Raytheon Co., and Sikorsky.


According to the ASBL, the organization promotes the interests of small businesses through social marketing and policy review along with monitoring federal contracts that are awarded to large corporations rather than to small businesses.


To view full Law360 article, click here: http://www.law360.com/articles/599786/dod-must-give-sikorsky-contract-data-to-small-biz-group




Press Room Search
Search for Media

Press Contacts

Reid Brownlie
Communications Contact

American Small Business League
3910 Cypress Dr., Suite B
Petaluma, CA 94954

707-789-9575 | fax 707-789-9580
email to rbrownlie@asbl.com




©2017 American Small Business League | Contact Us | Lloyd Chapman | 3910 Cypress Drive, Petaluma, CA 94954 | (707) 789 9575