Nuclear Contractor Used Taxpayer Dollars to Lobby for Taxpayer Dollars

The Department of Energy (DOE) Inspector General has found that contractor employees at the Sandia National Laboratory, which is part of the nuclear weapons complex, used taxpayer dollars to lobby government officials for a contract worth $2.4 billion a year. This is not only morally reprehensible, it’s illegal.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, an agency within the DOE charged with the oversight of the nuclear weapons complex, began reviewing the Sandia Field Office’s 2009-2011 documentation in 2013 when questions were raised about Heather Wilson, a former New Mexico Representative who began working for Sandia the day after she left the House.

The 2013 review found that Wilson received over $450,000 for consulting contracts with several DOE labs but provided little to no documentation of her services. The same review of Sandia’s 2009-2011 documentation uncovered an alleged strategy to ensure a muti-billion dollar extension of its sole-source contract, a plan developed and executed by Sandia lab officials and the Lockheed Martin Corporation, the contractor in charge of managing and operating the site through its subsidiary, Sandia Corporation.

This alleged strategy was confirmed by a DOE Inspector General “Special Inquiry” released this month. The Inspector General found documents showing that in 2009 Sandia employees hired consultants, held meetings, and prepared information about how best to influence Department officials and Members of Congress. Sandia’s message? That contractor “competition was not in the best interest of the Government.”

The Inspector General concluded: “Given the specific prohibitions against such activity, we believe that the use of Federal funds for the development of a plan to influence members of Congress and Federal officials to, in essence, prevent competition was inexcusable and unjustified.”

Over the course of reviewing the 2009 documents, the Inspector General also found that this incident wasn’t the first time Sandia and Lockheed Martin conspired to influence the contracting process. According to the report, a Sandia official wrote in a 2010 email, “we used operating costs in the same way in securing the extensions in [1998] and 2003.”

Sandia is not the only DOE-managed site where this kind of law-breaking occurred. Since 1996 Fluor Corporation managed the Hanford Site and between 2005 and 2009 used DOE funds to lobby for additional appropriations and contracts. In 2009, Fluor was replaced by Mission Support Alliance, LLC, which retained the lobbyists until 2010. Mission Support Alliance, LLC is a joint venture between the Lockheed Martin Corporation, Jacobs Engineering Group, and Wackenhut Services, Inc.

According to the Inspector General report, the National Nuclear Security Administration has put together a team of experts to “determine the extent of unallowable costs,” and will work to recover them. The agency will then determine if the contractor’s performance fee should be adjusted.