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Pentagon Wins Court Round on Disclosing Sikorsky Subcontracting Plans

By Charles S. Clark
Government Executive
January 10, 2017

Defense Department attorneys won an appeals court decision on Jan. 6 that denies a demand from a small business advocacy group that Sikorsky Aviation Corp. be required to disclose its subcontracting plan submitted under a long-standing Pentagon program.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled against the Petaluma, Calif.-based American Small Business League, saying that forcing the helicopter maker to disclose its subcontracting plan would put it at a competitive disadvantage.

Small business booster Lloyd Chapman has long challenged the Pentagon’s 27-year-old Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program as nonproductive and oriented mostly toward obfuscating the degree to which large contractors win defense business intended for smaller ones. 

 “By seeking disclosure of Sikorsky Aviation Corporation’s participation in the CSPTP, the ASBL sought to reveal evidence that the program allowed the Pentagon's largest prime contractors to circumvent small business subcontracting goals without penalty, costing small businesses trillions of dollars,” the league said in a statement following the ruling.

A district court judge in 2014 had sided with Chapman, scolding Defense Department attorneys for disclosing only partial information on subcontracting plans. The district court had ordered the Pentagon to release Sikorsky’s data, saying it did not contain trade secrets or proprietary or confidential financial information.

None of the information was released, however, and now the appeals court found that the lower court “erred in holding that none of the information currently redacted from the plan is protected” under exemption 4 of the Freedom of Information Act. That exemption assures companies doing business with the government that their “trade secrets or financial information [that is] privileged or confidential will not be revealed to third parties,” the appeals judges wrote.

Sikorsky spokesman Paul Jackson told Government Executive: “We appreciate and agree with the 9th Circuit Court’s thoughtful opinion.”

League president Chapman plans an appeal.

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