New Defense database should be public, watchdog says



 

By Alice Lipowicz



 

The White House ought to provide public access to a soon-to-be-created “Revolving Door” defense contractor database mandated under a 2008 law, a government watchdog group is urging.

The defense authorization bill last year stipulated that certain Defense Department acquisition officials must obtain an ethics opinion before accepting a paid position from a Defense contractor within two years of leaving federal service, according to the Project on Government Oversight watchdog group.

The law also requires that Pentagon contractors obtain such opinions for new hires. Failure to comply can result in cancellation of the contract, or possibly disbarment of the contractor.

The Pentagon must keep the ethics opinions and requests on file for five years but the law does not order public disclosure of the materials.

“POGO's concern is that the legislation does not mandate that this database be made publicly available,” Danielle Brian, executive director of the group, wrote in a Jan. 29 letter to the White House.

In a related issue, POGO also is requesting that a contractor responsibility online database that is being created to track civil, criminal and administrative histories of federal contractors be made available to the public. Congress included a provision to establish the database in the 2008 defense authorization bill. The concept is similar to a contractor misconduct database previously created by POGO.

However, the federal database will have a narrower focus, including only contract-related convictions or other findings of fault or liability within the last five years, POGO said.

“POGO's database includes no such limitations because we believe that misconduct occurring more than five years ago or involving matters not related to the award or performance of contracts or grants is still highly relevant in measuring and showing patterns in a contractor's integrity and performance history,” Brian wrote in the letter. “ “Also, a large number of contractor misconduct cases are resolved with no convictions or findings or admissions of fault or liability.”

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About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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