DOD Blocks Access To Contractor Data, Again

The Obama administration - which prides itself on being the most open White House ever -- has rejected a Freedom of Information Act request for information in a new government website that agencies use to compile ratings of contractor performance.

The Defense Department this week denied access to any of the contents in the Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System, after receiving a FOIA request from the Project on Government Oversight on June 17 to obtain certain information from the database.

The online application, which contracting officials use in selecting vendors for future work, is restricted to federal employees. The material collected in the database includes reasons for contract terminations and other data that may provide insights into a prospective supplier's integrity, business ethics and output. POGO officials said they plan to appeal the government's decision.

In a July 26 letter, the Defense Department turned down the group's request on the grounds that internal decisions on contract awards are regarded as sensitive.

"Information contained in the FAPIIS is exempt from release in its entirety pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(5), which pertains to certain inter- or intra-agency communications protected by the deliberative process privilege. FAPIIS information is considered source selection sensitive and therefore not publicly releasable," the letter states.

This is not the first time Defense has blocked citizens from reading up on contractors' past performance. Last year, Defense upheld a Bush-era tradition of denying taxpayers access to a Defense Department database that tracks scores each contractor receives from agency officials who work with the vendor. In April 2009, Defense rejected a FOIA request filed by the FOIA Group Inc., which consults with major companies, law firms and nonprofits, for assessments from the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System.

In April 2008, DOD also refused a FOIA request from POGO to see some of the same data.

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