Policy Letter

POGO and Good Government and Openness Coalition Support Public Access to Government-Wide Contractor Responsibility Database

Good Government and Openness Coalition Supports Public Access to Contractor Responsibility Database

Dear Member of Congress:

In a few short years, government contract spending has eclipsed $440 billion and the federal government is doing little, if anything, to ensure that risky contractors do not receive taxpayer dollars. The undersigned organizations urge both Chambers of Congress to pass the provision currently incorporated in the Senate’s National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 (S. 3001, Sec. 831) for a comprehensive contractor responsibility database, which was originally proposed by Representative Carolyn Maloney (H.R. 3033) and Senator Claire McCaskill (S. 2904). The database provision will require the government to establish and maintain a database of information regarding integrity and performance of persons awarded federal contracts and grants, including details about contractors that have defrauded the government, violated laws and regulations, had poor work performance, or had their contracts terminated for default. The database will address the government’s failure to vet contractors, as required by law, in order to determine whether they are truly responsible.

The legislation requires contractors, many of which receive a large percentage of their revenue from the federal government, to report non-responsible behavior. Specifically, the contractor responsibility database will go a long way toward improving pre-award contracting decisions and enhancing the government’s ability to weed out risky contractors, especially those with histories of non-responsibility or poor performance. Instances of non-responsibility include false claims against the government, violations of the Anti-Kickback Act, fraud, conspiracy to launder money, retaliation against workers’ complaints, and environmental violations.

The undersigned organizations urge you to make the contactor responsibility database government-wide and accessible to the public. Unfortunately, the contractor responsibility database included in S. 3001 only applies to the Defense Department and is available only to government officials—not the public.

Obviously, government officials across the government, including contracting officers (COs), suspension and debarment officials (SDOs), and Members of Congress, need access to the database. The same companies doing business with the DOD also have contracts at many other federal agencies. COs and SDOs government-wide need access to information about their contactors’ conduct in performing contracts at other agencies.

The public also deserves to see how taxpayer money is spent. Most of the information—suspensions, debarments, and civil, criminal, and administrative cases—is already publicly available via SEC filings or DOJ or agency press releases. The remaining instances would be contracts terminated for default and administrative agreements (which the Army already makes publicly available). Inclusion of such cases will deter irresponsible behavior and induce companies to voluntarily report it to the government. We believe that the public deserves to see the companies that broke the law, performed poorly, and had their government contracts terminated, or have entered into agreements with federal or state agencies.

The opponents of the contractor responsibility database are powerful and well-financed; therefore, any effort to publicly expose contractors’ missteps will be bitterly challenged. We know what we are up against and we will need your support to ensure that the public has access to this vital government-wide database.

Please join the undersigned organizations in supporting the important provisions of H.R. 3033 and S. 2904, to ensure that the public has access to DOD and civilian contractor responsibility information. For more information, please contact POGO’s general counsel Scott Amey at (202) 347-1122.


Project On Government Oversight (POGO)

Danielle Brian, Executive Director

9/11 Research Project

John Judge

American Association of Law Libraries

Mary Alice Baish, Acting Washington Affairs Representative

American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE)

Jacqueline Simon, Public Policy Director

Californians Aware

Terry Francke, General Counsel

Center for Corporate Policy

Charlie Cray, Director

Change to Win

Deborah Chalfie, Deputy Director of Policy

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)

Melanie Sloan, Executive Director

CODEPINK: Women for Peace

Gael Murphy, Cofounder

Common Cause

Sarah Dufendach, Vice President of Legislative Affairs


Tonya Hennessey, Project Director

Essential Action

Robert Weissman, Director

Federation of American Scientists (FAS)

Steven Aftergood, Project Director

First Amendment Foundation

Adria Harper, Director

Fund for Constitutional Government

Conrad Martin, Executive Director

Government Accountability Project (GAP)

Mark P. Cohen, Executive Director


James C. Turner, Executive Director

International Brotherhood of Teamsters

Frederick P. McLuckie, Legislative Director


J.H. (Jim) Snider, President

National Coalition Against Censorship

Joan E. Bertin, Executive Director

National Security Archive

Meredith Fuchs, General Counsel

National Taxpayers Union (NTU)

Duane Parde, President

OMB Watch

Adam Hughes, Director of Federal Fiscal Policy


Patrice McDermott, Director

Privacy International, FOI Project

David Banisar, Director

Public Citizen

Tyson Slocum, Director

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)

Jeff Ruch, Executive Director

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Lucy A. Dalglish, Executive Director

The Sunlight Foundation

Ellen S. Miller, Executive Director

Taxpayers for Common Sense

Ryan Alexander, President

United Food and Commercial Workers International

Michael J. Wilson, Director Legislative and Political Action Department


John Krieger, Staff Attorney

Washington Coalition for Open Government

Toby Nixon, President