Coast Guard commandant celebrates contractor while DOJ lawsuit is pending

Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert Papp appeared at a dockside ceremony in Lockport, La. with the governor and other dignitaries on March 2 to accept delivery of the latest cutter from federal contractor Bollinger Shipyards.

But going unmentioned at the large gathering was that the Justice Department eight months ago went to court to accuse Bollinger of making false statements to the Coast Guard on a related contract. That unresolved False Claims Act lawsuit brought by the DOJ seeks unspecified damages expected to be in the millions of dollars from Bollinger.


Related story:

Beyond Deepwater: What the Coast Guard learned


Based on news reports of the celebration, Bollinger appears to be experiencing little fallout from the lawsuit and the U.S. attorney general’s office seems to be mostly on its own with little support from other federal agencies for the lawsuit.

DOJ brought the legal action against Bollinger Shipyards in August 2011 to recoup an unspecified amount of money from Bollinger. The U.S. attorney general claimed the company made false statements about the hull strength of eight patrol boats it was elongating for the Coast Guard under the Deepwater program. The Coast Guard rejected the completed boats as unseaworthy, and eventually refashioned, and then terminated, the Deepwater program.

In the months following the filing of the lawsuit, the Coast Guard has continued to award contracts to Bollinger, and Sen. Mary Landrieu, (D-La), chair of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, said she worked hard to ensure Congress allocated $358 million to support those contracts.

The Coast Guard signed a $180 million contract with Bollinger for the production of four more fast-response cutters in September 2011. The agency’s total contracts with Bollinger to date were valued at $597 million, the company said at that time. The total value of the agency's contracts with Bollinger is $1.5 billion, if all options are exercised.

At the ceremony on March 2, Papp praised Bollinger and appeared overjoyed with the new cutter, according to an article in the HoumaToday.com online newspaper.

In an interview afterward, Papp described the current lawsuit as something the Justice Department chose to pursue and said it had no impact on future contracts, according to HoumaToday.com.

“Elongating the old Island Class cutters was one of the earlier solutions, and we decided to terminate that contract,” Papp said, according to HoumaToday.com. “This is a completely different project. The company has a great track history.”

“We have to make a strong argument for these ships,” Landrieu said, according to HoumaToday.com.

Michael DeKort, a Deepwater whistleblower who has a pending False Claims Act lawsuit against the Deepwater prime contractor, said he was concerned that the Coast Guard’s ongoing support for Bollinger appears to undermine the DOJ’s lawsuit.

“I understand innocent until proven guilty,” DeKort wrote on his blog on March 4. “What that should not mean is pumping hundreds of millions more $ to Bollinger and to undermine the DoJ while you figure out if they are guilty. At the very least the CG leadership and politicians should have called for the matter to be resolved and at least feign concern that Bollinger could have gotten people killed. They might even have debarred Bollinger until the matter was resolved.”

Coast Guard, Bollinger and DOJ officials were not immediately available for comment.

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Reader comments

Wed, Mar 14, 2012 Michael DeKort

I want to acknowledge the important contributions of Commander Pierce and Pam Bible.Both provided sworn testimony regarding the worthless, decommissioned 8 Patrol Boats all of which operated before ICGS and Northrop Grumman got their greedy paws on them. Pam was the official Contract Officer who formally rejected all of the converted 123s and demanded the return of $96.1 million as damages.Commander Pierce was the official 30(b)(6) witness who testified, officially, for CG, itself, and who also provided us a sworn Declaration spelling out the material misrepresentations and failures confirmed by the official, written USCG investigation. Commander Pierce was unequivocal that the contractors withheld and misrepresented critical information that resulted in hull failure, and that kept the CG from cancelling the 123 program at a much earlier point in time, saving significant money. Neither Bible nor Pierce had any praises for what the contractors did to the 123s.They totally rejected the poor work and misleading conduct. Yet, the Commandant effectively rejected or repudiated the very clear sworn testimony of trusted CG personnel who were adamant about the contractors total failures in the 123 modification program. The Commandant seems to have no compassion for the taxpayers, the safety of those who served on the 123s or trust in his loyal staff whose motivations have never been doubted by anyone on the Deepwater program. We have it right, and the Department of Justice has it right. The contractors misled the USCG and destroyed 8 operating patrol boats. The Commandant is either (a) grossly uninformed (isn’t he aware of the content developed during the April 2007 Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Investigative hearing in Congress), or (2) he is informed and he is trying to sink the Taxpayers before the CG has to scuttle the 8 useless 123’ Patrol Boats which the contractors destroyed. The Deepwater work was expressly guaranteed, unconditionally, by ICGS and its partners, so why doesn’t someone shake up the top of the USCG and make them do the job they were appointed to do? http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2011/August/11-civ-1054.html

Wed, Mar 7, 2012 Dave

Nice fix...

Tue, Mar 6, 2012 Alice Lipowicz

Regarding the previous comment about the $358, that was an error that occurred in editing. It should have said $358 million. It has been corrected. We apologize for the mistake.

Tue, Mar 6, 2012 Dave

1. Senator Landrieu lobbied hard to get Congress to allocate $358? What did she do, pass the collection hat while Congress was in session? Or beg for the coffee fund money? 2. This is a prime example of what government contracting has become: less about the government agencies getting what they need and more about spreading the wealth around in an effort to support states and congressional districts so they will re-elect there respective representatives.

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