POGO 2007 AccomplishmentsTweet
The following are just a few examples of POGO's accomplishments in 2007:
- Updated Federal Contractor Misconduct Database Launched. POGO unveiled its new and improved Federal Contractor Misconduct Database (FCMD), and worked with Representative Carolyn Maloney on legislation that would require the government to create and maintain a similar contractor database. POGO's new database includes updated misconduct information for the government's top 50 contractors, and is now more user-friendly. It has been well received by many government officials, small businesses, and journalists. Even the contracting industry has gone on record to sheepishly acknowledge the need for a government-wide database that includes objective information. The launch of POGO's database was announced in The New York Times, and has been cited or used in numerous news articles and popular blogs.
- Contracting Reforms Enacted in Legislation. Multiple bills were introduced in the House and Senate to enact contracting reforms similar to POGO's recommendations to increase transparency and competitiveness, and reduce the use of risky contract vehicles.
- New Wartime Contracting Commission Established. Congress passed legislation, co-sponsored by Senators Claire McCaskill and Jim Webb, to establish an independent and bi-partisan commission to investigate U.S. wartime contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The commission is modeled after a committee created by Harry Truman when he was a Senate freshman. Senator McCaskill praised POGO's work, as well as that of other watchdog groups, in supporting the legislation.
- Whistleblower Protections Gained for Department of Defense Contractors. POGO and a coalition of other organizations worked to include in the final defense authorization legislation an amendment introduced by Senators McCaskill and Susan Collins, which provides whistleblower protections for employees of Defense Department contractors and grantees. The amendment gives contractor employees the right to a jury trial in federal district court. It also increases protected channels for communicating concerns, including to the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction; and broadens protected speech categories to include threats to public safety, gross mismanagement, and gross waste of DOD funds.
- Tackling Abuse of Secrecy. POGO successfully worked with families of 9/11 victims to curtail the abuse of the Department of Homeland Security's use of a secrecy marking called Sensitive Security Information. In addition, POGO--along with Senator Tom Coburn, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and our nonprofit allies--succeeded in preventing excessive secrecy concerning the Department of Transportation's and other agencies' budget justifications. Such secrecy would have undermined attempts to challenge earmarks, and made the congressional budget process even more opaque.
- Missile Defense Failures Revealed. Inside sources and leaked documents allowed POGO to publicly reveal that the Missile Defense Agency's (MDA) $1 billion Sea-Based X-Band Radar, the lynchpin of the MDA's missile tracking system, is at significant risk in the harsh environment of the northern Pacific where the radar system is supposed to be stationed. POGO also revealed that numerous missile defense silos in Alaska had flooded due to incompetence by the MDA and the Boeing Company.
- Exposing Weakened Helicopter Requirements. A POGO investigation uncovered an improper requirement change in one of the Air Force's largest acquisition programs, the combat search and rescue helicopter replacement program (CSAR-X). It highlights the potential of a serious systemic blind spot in the Pentagon's oversight of requirements for its weapons systems, where the interests of contracting officials may trump those of war fighters. Congress and the Air Force have met in response to POGO's report, and the Air Force has already admitted that there was a lack of transparency in that phase of the acquisition process.
- F-22 Corrosion Revealed. POGO worked with the Salt Lake Tribune to expose that current major F-22 corrosion problems were actually discovered by the Air Force and Lockheed Martin (the F-22's manufacturer) a decade ago. Yet neither the Air Force nor the manufacturer corrected the problem. The F-22, estimated to cost more than $130 million per plane, has been plagued by cost overruns and delays since its beginning.
- Rapid Procurement System Failures Exposed. POGO assisted a Marine Corps whistleblower in his efforts to alert Congress and the public to egregious delays in the Marine Corps rapid procurement system, which prevented troops from getting the equipment they needed in a timely manner. As a result of POGO's and the Government Accountability Project's work with the media on this issue, the House Armed Services Committee held a vital hearing on Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPS), one of the systems that had been delayed; there were significant increases in appropriations for MRAPs; and the Pentagon increased the vehicle's acquisition priority.
- Nuclear Weapons Complex Begins to Shrink. In December 2007, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced a deadline of 2012 for removing special nuclear materials from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and even removed a shipment of nuclear weapons grade plutonium as 2008 arrived. The government cited significant security concerns and costs, which POGO had long been raising, as reason for the move. Having determined that a more aggressive timeline is cost-effective and feasible, POGO is pressing DOE to de-inventory the site by early 2009.
- POGO Draws Attention to Lax Security at Peach Bottom Nuclear Power Plant. POGO worked with a CBS news affiliate to draw national media and congressional attention to its series highlighting a whistleblower at the Peach Bottom plant in Pennsylvania. The young contract security guard, employed by The Wackenhut Corporation, gave video of sleeping guards to the news outlet after his efforts to alert management and the government about the safety issues had been stymied. In pursuit of systemic change, POGO encouraged an Inspector General inquiry, and pressed the NRC to dramatically accelerate plans to improve nuclear security regulations, as well as to improve the handling of future whistleblower concerns. Exelon, the company in charge of a number of nuclear power plants, recently fired Wackenhut from all of its plants across the country, and will replace the contractor with an in-house security staff.
- Austria. In March 2007, POGO's Peter Stockton and Princeton University Professor Frank von Hippel presented their paper on the necessary consolidation of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex at a conference held at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria. In their presentation, Mr. Stockton and Professor von Hippel highlighted the importance of adequately securing special nuclear materials (SNM)—plutonium and highly enriched uranium—from terrorists. They also used POGO's role in getting a particularly dangerous nuclear weapons complex site de-inventoried of its SNM as an example of how non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can effectively assist governments in better securing nuclear materials. POGO and Professor von Hippel's paper has been published in Global Fissile Material Report 2007: Second report of the International Panel on Fissile Materials (www.fissilematerials.org).
- Honduras. In September 2007, Democracy Without Borders (Fundacion Democracia sin Fronteras), a nonprofit government watchdog in Honduras, invited Danielle Brian and Scott Amey to exchange ideas on how to create a more transparent system to prevent government corruption. Danielle and Scott gave a presentation to the Honduran National Congress about the essential role the lawmakers should play to ensure a balance of power with the executive branch of government. The two also met with local NGOs, the media, and international representatives.