Pentagon, Sikorsky sued over small-business contracts
Washington – A group representing small businesses is suing the Pentagon and Sikorsky for information about the defense contractor’s hiring of small and minority businesses as subcontractors.
The Sonoma, Calif.-based American Small Business League says the information it has sought from Sikorsky will show the Pentagon has for decades falsified the volume of subcontracts that have been awarded to small businesses.
The league’s lawsuit stems from it’s efforts to obtain information about Sikorsky’s participation in a Defense Department program aimed at increasing subcontracting opportunities for small businesses.
In April of 2014, the American Small Business League filed a freedom of information request for the annual report submitted by Sikorsky and about a dozen large defense contractors that participate in the Pentagon’s Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program. By law, federal agencies are obligated to award a portion – currently 23 percent – of their contracts to small businesses and those owned by women or other disadvantaged groups.
Sikorsky initially declined to provide the information, but eventually was forced to do so by a federal judge.
Despite being ordered to release an un-redacted copy of the requested documents, Sikorsky only supplied the court with a heavily redacted version and appealed the judge’s order to the California-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. A trial date of Dec. 11 has been set for the case.
The redacted document blacked out all names and addresses of the helicopter makers’ subcontractors. Sikorsky projected spending more than $913 million on large subcontractors and $272 million on small businesses and those owned by women, veterans and minorities.
Sikorsky, purchased by Lockheed Martin in late 2015, said it could not divulge details of its subcontractors because that would put it at a competitive disadvantage with other defense companies.
“At Lockheed Martin our suppliers are integral partners in delivering our products and services to our customers,” said Sikorsky spokesman Paul Jackson. “Sikorsky is an active participant in the Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program and has complied with all small business requirements under the Department of Defense’s guidelines.”
Jackson also said Sikorsky’s Comprehensive Small Business Plan “is competition sensitive” and was recognized as such by the appeals court.
“We will continue to work with the Department of Defense to ensure that our rights under FOIA are protected,” Jackson said.
The business league argues that Sikorsky’s contracts with the government are “sole source” contracts and Sikorsky has no competitors for their Pentagon business.
Headed by small business advocate Lloyd Chapman, the American Small Business League is skeptical that the Pentagon’s Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program actually helps small business.
In a recent op-ed, Chapman said the CSPTP “was designed to eliminate all transparency for the Pentagon’s largest prime contractors.”
Chapman said the CSPTP also eliminated all penalties that defense contractors may face for non-compliance with federal small business contracting goals.
Witnesses at December’s trial include Janice Buffler, Department of Defense associate director of subcontracting policy; Andrew Driver, Sikorsky Aircraft senior manager of market analytics; Amy Johnson, Sikorsky director of supply chain; and Martha Crawford, Sikorsky supplier diversity manager.
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