A small-business advocate has won a day
in court with Pentagon attorneys to argue whether the Defense Department should
release shielded internal documents that the plaintiff argues will reveal a
government bias against small defense contractors.
Lloyd Chapman, founder of the Petaluma,
Calif.-based American Small Business League, for years has sought to expose the
workings of the 28-year-old Comprehensive
Subcontracting Plan Test Program designed to “determine if comprehensive
subcontracting plans on a corporate, division or plant-wide basis [instead of
for individual contracts] would lead to increased opportunities for small
Chapman argues the program covers up
ways in which large contractors get work intended for eligible small
businesses, and even the Pentagon has expressed a desire for Congress to
terminate the program as not effective in organizing contact awards.
On April 12, the small business league
announced a new stage in its ongoing
suit against the helicopter maker Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. (acquired by
Lockheed Martin in 2015) and the DOD. U.S. District Court Judge William
Alsup of the Northern District of California, last week
set December as the time for a full trial that will include discovery and
as many as 10 depositions from the Defense Department on the mysterious
program. “The ASBL believes the release of the information will prove the
Pentagon has defrauded small businesses out of over two trillion dollars in
subcontracts since the program was established in 1989,” the league said.
Sikorsky had appealed a 2014 loss in
district court to the 9th Circuit, which this January ruled in favor of the
company and the Pentagon. During the litigation, the league reported, Sikorsky
argued that parent company Lockheed Martin was a competitor that would gain an
unfair advantage with the release of the information submitted to the CSPTP.
But when the 9th Circuit Court remanded
the case back to the District Court this January, the league was given an
opportunity by the Justice Department to press for a trial—considered unusual
in FOIA cases. "So it would be more like a David and Goliath,” the district
judge said in a 2014 hearing described by the league. “You get to come in
there and be the underdog again against the big company and against the big
government. They are trying to suppress the evidence."
A spokesman for Sikorsky told Government
Executive that “at this time Sikorsky is not a party to the ongoing case
and has no additional comment.”
A Pentagon spokesman said the department
does not comment on pending litigation.
Chapman told Government Executive
that he is emotional over what he called a “historic” development.
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