The Coast Guard released a document to the public that is the focus of a government leak investigation, raising further questions about whether the investigation is really an effort to retaliate against a Deepwater whistleblower. Citing this document and other information, POGO issued a letter today urging the Coast Guard to take stronger action to hold Deepwater contractors accountable for a string of failures and to protect whistleblowers who have come forward to alert the public and Congress.
On January 18, 2007, the Project On Government Oversight received a fully unredacted copy of the document in question in response to a Freedom of Information Act request to the Coast Guard. Yet, Coast Guard Investigative Service and the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General have been investigating [name redacted] over disclosing the document to the public. The document, titled "NSC Risk Brief" itemizes, in part, the probabilities that contractors will fail to deliver on various contract requirements related to production of Deepwater National Security Cutters (NSC), the Coast Guard's largest and costliest ship procurement.
[redacted] In response to queries from the Washington Post concerning the investigation, the Coast Guard reportedly issued a statement saying: "unauthorized disclosure or improper handling of sensitive, classified or proprietary information is strictly prohibited and may result in administrative or criminal charges." (See link to story below.)
The NSC Risk Brief contains information on continuing technical deficiencies due to the contractors' performance, but it also shows Coast Guard complicity in allowing contractors Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to defraud the taxpayer on the $24 billion Deepwater contract. POGO's letter today chastises the Coast Guard for failing to seek maximum reimbursement from Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman for equipment and electronics defects on previous boat deliveries; those defects mirror those identified in the Risk Brief on the new NSC. POGO's letter states:
The Coast Guard's request will likely set the baseline for a settlement between the contractors and the government, and the current request does not fully represent the misconduct of the contractors. The Coast Guard should do its best to achieve maximum accountability to look out for the taxpayer's interest, and to ensure that its Deepwater program gets on track. As you know, congressional and public scrutiny of this program remains high, especially since the first National Security Cutter (NSC), the Bertholf, is undergoing sea trials in the coming months.
Following a series of scandals over Deepwater program failures, in December 2007, the House and Senate passed legislation to reform the Deepwater contract by restoring the Coast Guard's management of future contract purchases. Existing contracts such as that for the National Security Cutter will continue to move forward under the now-discredited Lead Systems Integrator model, which allows Lockheed Martin and the Coast Guard to oversee themselves, although with more oversight.
For More Information:
Coast Guard Employee Alleges Retaliation: Whistle-Blower Seeks Probe of His Charges Against Staff of DHS Inspector General, WashingtonPost, December 16, 2007. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/15/AR2007121501400.html
Rear Admiral Ronald J. Rábago, "NSC Risks Brief," U.S. Coast Guard Acquisition Directorate, Program Executive Office, August 30, 2007. http://pogoarchives.org/m/wi/deepwater/risk-brief-20070830.pdf