Defense Dept. Suspends Public Announcements of Contracts

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Since the federal government shutdown began on October 1, the Pentagon has awarded billions of dollars’ worth of government contracts but failed to announce the awards publicly as required by law. Normally, the Defense Department (DoD) posts a daily award announcement on its website and in an e-mail to subscribers, but those notices ceased on day one of the shutdown.


“During the shutdown we will not be able to publicly announce contracts,” said DoD spokesman Nathan Christensen. Since the Pentagon awarded nearly $1 billion in contracts per day in the fiscal year that ended September 30, 2012, it is reasonable to assume a similar level of unannounced contract awards now. In its last announcement on September 30, the Department announced more than $5 billion in contracts, including awards to top contractors Lockheed, Boeing, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman.


The consequences for the public interest could be dire. Just last week, Lockheed received two more contracts worth $7.8 billion for 71 F-35 jets, a program that has attracted widespread criticism, including by lawmakers, for its rising costs.


“For the public not to know for days, and perhaps even a number of weeks, about large-scale contract spending is anathema to open government,” explained Charles Tiefer, a former member of the U.S. Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan and now a law professor at the University of Baltimore. “This is a form of secret contracting.”


Big defense contractors are, however, unhappy with how the shutdown is affecting other aspects of military contracting, according to a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel from Marion Blakey, president of the Aerospace Industries Association, and Lawrence Farrell, president of the National Defense Industrial Association. Stating that their “most immediate concern” is the furloughing of contract-management inspectors, whose absence could bring manufacturing on military contracts to a halt, the two also voiced concern regarding the Defense Financing and Accounting Service, which is set to stop functioning next week.


The awards notices are only one among many sources of government data that have disappeared from public view because of the shutdown, including Census data, agricultural price reports and the Labor Department’s September payrolls report that was scheduled for release Friday.

-Matt Bewig


To Learn More:

Pentagon Contract Winners Go Unannounced as Government Shutdown Lingers (by Danielle Ivory and Kathleen Miller, Bloomberg)

CEOs of Major Defense Contractors Earn More in a Day than Average U.S. Worker in a Year (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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