Last week, we blogged about the GAO's unfavorable assessment of the government's main tool for tracking contractors' past performance histories, the Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS). The GAO found that, despite repeated efforts to improve the system in recent years, PPIRS is poorly-managed, lacks reliable and timely performance data, and is otherwise falling short in its goal of fostering better contracting decisions.
POGO can't say for sure about the reliability or timeliness of PPIRS performance data, although we once tried to find out. Two years ago, we submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Defense (DoD) seeking the names of all the contractors entered in PPIRS, all of their performance grades, and all PPIRS records for the 50 contractors then in POGO's Federal Contractor Misconduct Database.
As you can see from the DoD's response letter, we were able to obtain the names of all DoD contractors included in PPIRS (provided to us in this Excel spreadsheet), but were unable to get our hands on the juicier PPIRS data. According to the Defense Business Transformation Agency Chief of Staff, the release of this data would "risk circumvention of Department of Defense rules and practices by providing insight into project vulnerabilities and information which may allow individual companies located overseas who do business with the DoD to be targeted by those seeking to harm the interests of the U.S. Government."
Needless to say, we vehemently disagree with the DoD's position, and we also take exception to its view that past performance data falls under the “trade secrets/commercial or financial data” exemption.
Also, check out the FOIA officer's description of PPIRS in the second paragraph of the response letter. His enthusiastic endorsement of PPIRS as “the authoritative source for contractor performance information” and a “one-stop shop” for government contracting officials seems rather comical in light of the GAO's recent findings, not to mention the similar findings of the DoD Inspector General in this 2008 report.
-- Neil Gordon