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Jul 20, 2009

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Dfens

You seem to be assuming that the federal government pays us for results rather than for process. Hence, you deduce there must be criminal negligence otherwise how could these boats be such pieces of crap? It doesn't work that way. There's only one thing in a cost plus award fee contract tied to results, and that's the award fee itself. Even that has a very tenuous tie to results, which explains why most contractors stay in the 95% range despite continually sliding schedules to the right and driving budgeted costs through the roof.

I'm telling you, F-22 was LEGAL waste, fraud, and abuse from day one and will be far past the day the program dies. POGO has ensured that it will always be in that category by pulling out the stops to help the contractor end production at 187 aircraft. All the well meaning idiots got together on that one. Whoo hoo, what a great win that was! Morons! F-35 is the same thing. These are programs that put the level of waste far beyond anything you saw on Deepwater just because of the much larger amount of money being wasted. And it was all legal. Hell, POGO helped, absolutely convinced they had the taxpayers back - well, at least the useful idiots in the trenches were convinced.

Good luck finding that smoking gun.

Michael DeKort

Open call for assistance in Deepwater case:

Within the next few months we will be fighting the motions to dismiss from Lockheed, Northrop and ICGS. If we lose this round the case is over. That means there will be no refund and the contractors will not be held accountable for the Deepwater problem.

(In addition to that Northrop has signaled that the companies actually intend to seek damages from the Coast Guard for stopping the program. Text from Northrop motion to dismiss the Bollinger suit states the following:

"Presumably, Lockheed Martin could seek compensation from the Coast Guard under the CDA for C4ISR equipment and information delivery delays, if any, caused by the government. As the prime contractor, ICGS, not NGSS or Bollinger, could best determine whether Lockheed Martin or NGSS could assert a CDA claim against the government for delays experienced in delivering equipment or information to Bollinger. ICGS could also sponsor such a claim against the Coast Guard on behalf of Lockheed Martin.")

Additionally one of the tactics Northrop is using is to blame the Coast Guard for the 123 problems. They state that the Coast Guard abused these boats, did not operate nor not maintain them properly. From the motion:

"The Coast Guard decision to decommission vessels does not lead to the inescapable conclusion that the defendants committed fraud. To the contrary, there is strong evidence suggesting that the 123 structural issues were attributable to the Coast Guard's operation of the vessels beyond their performance parameters and failure to maintain the structural integrity of the vessels, not any nonconformance with contract requirements."

This is an open call for assistance. We are asking for the Coast Guard and even contractor personnel who read these blogs to get involved. We feel there should actually be very little trouble winning this motion but given the importance and finality of the event we believe it is prudent to not take anything for granted. If there was ever a time to act to ensure the refund is paid and the contractors are held responsible this may be the last opportunity. Finally I am calling on the Commandant himself to make a public and service wide call for the men and women who serve in the Coast Guard to assist in our efforts.

- Michael DeKort
[email protected]

Dfens

It took 25 years for them to design the F-22. 25 years! All previous fighters took 5 years or less. In the papers today it was announced that F-35 will slip a couple more years, duh. The truth is, that airplane will take 25 years to develop, cost twice what the F-22's bloated development cost, and have a per unit cost of more than $100 million (probably more like $120 M). In the 9 months I spent on F-22 I saw exactly how the US taxpayer's money was wasted. It was wasted on stupidity. I designed the same parts 3 times in 9 months! Every time they'd come up with a new load case the skin would gain a few more plys and everything underneath would change. They ran that scam for not just years, but decades. Who is going to blow the whistle on that? There's no whistle to blow on stupidity.

We used to joke that the unofficial name for F-22 was not "Raptor" but "Precious", after the famous ring from "Lord of the Rings". Now the F-35 has become "Precious". In both cases the US taxpayer is obviously being fleeced. In both cases the USAF and contractors (and POGO) will do absolutely whatever it takes to keep the program going. In neither case is the best interests of the taxpayer or soldier a factor. There is no one to sue, but a major fraud is being committed legally, in plain sight, during business hours, and all anyone can think to talk about is who will win the World Series.

The only thing I can possibly think is that someone has replaced the US citizens with zombies. Why else would they put up with this? They are zombies and they don't deserve to be protected from themselves.

Michael DeKort

DFENS
I understand your point and appreciate the warning. However I am well past the point of no return. We will move forward and do our best. (The powers that be want everyone to feel the way you do. That alone is enough of a motivator to keep me going.)

Dfens

I hope you win, Michael. I truely do. Your video was a stroke of genius. Even so, I would not advise anyone to go the route you went. I will not. As long as the US taxpayer is willing to vote for representatives that provide a monetary incentive for defense contractors to screw them then they deserve what they get. I'm not protecting anyone from themselves. If the American people are so damn stupid they'll pay a contractor more money if they provide a shoddy product than they'll pay if the contrator provides a good one, then screw them.

I refuse to participate in the fraud. I do my best. I fix what I can. But I will not be dragged through the mud to fix a problem that the US taxpayer causes by being a bunch of zombies. I won't support an organization like POGO that encourages the same kind of fraud as the government contractors do.

Clearly it's too late for you. You've chosen to go down this road, and for good reason. I mean, there is a good chance Coast Guard sailors could have been killed on those boats. They were that unsafe. Even so, I would not have advised you to stick your neck out. It's crazy. Those companies will defame you and drag you and your family through the mud, and for what? They'll do the same shoddy work on the next boat, and the next, and the next.

I'm not sticking my neck out for a bunch of zombie US taxpayers. They'll either get fed up with this system and force their representatives to fix it, or they can pay through the nose for nothing if they want. I'm not going to save them from themselves, and, frankly, I wish you hadn't too. Since you're in the spotlight, though, tell them what's wrong. Don't just let this be about the individuals you were working with. Let them know the system is screwed up. That's all I ask.

Michael DeKort

ICGS, Lockheed and Northrop not only don't plan to refund any of the 123 money but they are actually considering taking legal action to secure damages from the Coast Guard because they canceled the program. So not only does Northrop believe the Coast Guard is at fault for the 123 problems, due to their negligence in operating and maintaining the boats, but they believe they are owed compensation because the program was canceled. Again - how many of you involved in these issues are going to sit by and not get involved. If we were to lose the motions to dismiss process we are in now the refund will be lost and these contractors will sue the Coast Guard for damages.

http://pogoblog.typepad.com/pogo/2009/01/deepwater-problems-motivated-by-disinterested-malevolence.html

The link to the Northrop court filing that contains the following quote is embedded in the POGO blog. See the footnote on page 12.

"Presumably, Lockheed Martin could seek compensation from the Coast Guard under the CDA for C4ISR equipment and information delivery delays, if any, caused by the government. As the prime contractor, ICGS, not NGSS or Bollinger, could best determine whether Lockheed Martin or NGSS could assert a CDA claim against the government for delays experienced in delivering equipment or information to Bollinger. ICGS could also sponsor such a claim against the Coast Guard on behalf of Lockheed Martin."

Michael DeKort

Let me be a bit clearer and more direct.

Are there any persons out there willing to provide additional information so that justice will be done on the Deepwater boondoggle?

Michael DeKort

From the Northrop Motion to Dismiss our False Claims Act suit.

Northrop blames the Coast Guard for the 123 debacle

"The Coast Guard decision to decommission vessels does not lead to the inescapable conclusion that the defendants committed fraud. To the contrary, there is strong evidence suggesting that the 123 structural issues were attributable to the Coast Guard's operation of the vessels beyond their performance parameters and failure to maintain the structural integrity of the vessels, not any nonconformance with contract requirements. Simply put, defendants fully complied with the 123 contract requirements.

This is the partner the Coast Guard is still supporting? The partner the Coast Guard is willing to cover for? (All three companies - Lockheed, Northrop and ICGS also state there can be no fraud because the Coast Guard knew about all of the problems and accepted the boats anyway. Keep in mind no refund has been paid to date and these contractors are still under contract to do most of the work they originally signed up to do and are in the running for the OPC - which is the bulk of the DW program)

This statement is in the spec for the boat

"The 123-Ft WPB scantling characteristics will provide structural integrity equivalent to, or in excess of the existing 110-Ft WPB. Any cutter structural member found to be less than ninety percent (90%) of the original nominal metal thickness as a result of the post arrival hull survey shall be replaced."

Looks to me like ICGS/NG knew exactly what they were getting in to, promised to upgrade all of the 110s, designed and fabricated a flawed solution, misrepresented the problem to the Coast Guard, collected their money and then looked for a way out. That way out is to blame the customer by saying the Coast Guard abused, mistreated and did not maintain these boats prior to the modification.

All of you people in the Coast Guard (and the contractors for that matter) who read these posts and defend the organization or the contractors pay close attention here. These companies have filed motions to dismiss our claims. If they win there will be no refund, no penalty and no accountability. Is that what you want?

Michael DeKort

How am I not helping the rest of you survive the "crap". I an doing everything I could think of to fix the problem and hold people accountable. Heck I even had a small part in the F-22 and F-35 False Claims Act suits. I did very little of this for myself. I lost a job I had for almost 13 years, moved my family 3 times and went through a fair amount of grief over the past 6 years. (I say fair amount because I know many people have gone through much more). Say I did this for myself is not only inaccurate it is patently unfair. Please - list the things similar things you have done. Do you have the intestinal fortitude to walk the walk? Are you actually in the trenches or a Monday Morning QB who makes remarks from the safety of the sideline?

As for your point about the larger problem you are correct. It's all a big game. No one wants to know how much things cost so congress beats up DoD who beats on the contractors who then under bid and over promise on purpose. Then they win anyway. Then the contractors are late and go way over budget. If that situation is too bad (in rare cases like the VH-1 program) they get canceled. But most do not. They suffer bad press and dog and pony hearings with a lot of finger wagging. They bow their heads and shuffle off but they are given extra funds to finish. If the product is reasonably good (or at least the perception is good) everyone forgives and forgets and the dance starts over. So sure a good part of the military industrial complex is screwed and so is congress etc. (Having said that - flaws and all - we are much better off than most countries and truly do have an far superior fighting force than anyone else) Who is to blame for this? Selfish voters who vote their guy in for the pork but want everyone else to vote their bad guy out. There is blame for everyone one including the hypocritical taxpayer.

As for POGO. They are a small shop taking on giants. They have been fair and helpful to me. Proportional to their power and civic responsibility they did far more on these issues than the congress, DHS IG, Coast Guard, Navy, Navy IG DoJ etc - who all pulled up short.

Maybe you can do better?

Dfens

Yeah, Michael, you might make some money or you might not. Your lawyer certainly will. No doubt your lawyer and the corporate lawyers will be the only real winners in this whole fiasco. Frankly, if you do make money, I'd say you should keep it, because you'll never work in the defense industry again. Not that I'd say that's a bad thing.

While I sympathize with you on what you've been through, you're not kidding anyone. You're not doing anyone else any favors. You're not helping any of the rest of us who are in the defense industry working with this same kind of crap every single day.

The system is broken. Our federal procurement system pays more to a contractor that screws them over than it does to one that provides the promised product at the promised time. You know that's true. Everyone in the defense industry knows that's true. The saying where I work is, "the worse they want it, the worse we give it to them." Do you think that kind of system promotes honor and decency? Is that the kind of system where the cream floats to the top? NO!

When our customer rewards incompetence and corruption, that's what they encourage. All you did was blow the whistle on a contractor who was trying to maximize their profit by playing the system the way it was set up to be played. They provide a crappy product and get paid huge amounts of money to fix it. There is not a day that goes by in the defense industry that 1000 other companies are not doing the same thing.

You want to help someone besides yourself? Expose the real problem. Tell the taxpayers the truth about why there is not a single defense program that is on schedule and on budget. Frankly, all you've done to date is play into the hands of the military-industrial complex. They'd love for the American people to think the problem is the people who work in the defense industry and not the procurement system. They're making record profits off this system. Do you think they're going to kill that goose? They love organizations like POGO. POGO hides the truth about military procurement just like the defense department used UFO's to hide the nature and location of secret aircraft. One more source of lies. One more source of misinformation.

Do something for someone other than yourself. Do something for the rest of us in the defense industry. Do something really benefits the American taxpayer and not just the lawyers. Expose the root of the problem with the Coast Guard program you worked on, and the rest of these screwed up defense programs.

Michael DeKort

The case is filed on behalf of the American people who, if we win, are guaranteed 2/3 of the sum. None of which would occur if we weren't pursuing this because the government bowed out. 1/3 is for the original infraction and 1/3 for damages. (2X the $100 million refund request). If we win I am not guaranteed anything. I may see up to 1/3 if certain criteria is met.

As for my giving up my 1/3 to pay down the national debt. Are you kidding me? First - this issue has never been about the money. I spent 3 years trying to get these things fixed within Lockheed. I went all the way to the CEO and Board. I went through 3 ethics investigations including one done by the corporate VP of ethics. I went to many members of congress, the DHS IG, the Navy IG, the DoD IG, the NSA, The DoJ etc before an FCA suit was filed. At any point if any of them (especially Lockheed) would have done the right thing there would be no suit and no chance for monetary recovery for myself.

Additionally – my attorney and I are using our resources to recover the refund and penalty right now. The DoJ deferred, the Coast Guard deferred etc.

I moved my family three times in the past 6 years because of Lockheed issues. This whole thing has been trying on my family. We have sacrificed a lot and hung in there to be the only party who is aggressively pursuing recovery. I will certainly not give up all of any recovery I get to the national debt. My lawyer will recover what he should; I will pay my taxes, donate to charity, help out family members and friends and then take care of my family.

Have you been down this road? Who are you to suggest that after all of this I donate - or any other whistleblower that puts themselves and their families at risk and used their own resources (where their government abdicated their responsibility), in order to do the right thing? Your suggestion is extremely unfair and unreasonable. Curious - did you win an FCA and give your money, the 1/3 that remained from getting the government 2X the original damages, back to the government? (By the way the government will get 30% or so for taxes so they actually get more than 2/3 of the recovery and my portion would be less than 1/3).

Joe Carson

P.S. Michael DeKort,

I have been a "player" in this cruel jungle for about 17 years now. Like it or not, people like us for "grist" - lots of people benefit from our suffering, one reason the system stays so broke.

But I suggest if you want to claim that you are filing false claims suits on behalf of the American people - implying the much money you could obtain as a result of the suit is not a factor in your actions - that you openly pledge to give whatever you win (or whatever you win above a specific dollar amount) back to the gov't to pay off the deficit. Otherwise, I suggest you should say "I want the money and it's the right thing to do by the American public."

Michael DeKort

POGO isn't pedaling anything - it is my post. They just helped with a little editing and links.

Systems are made up of people - most Americans in the cases we are discussing. While the Deepwater oversight by the Coast Guard wasn't great it was Lockheed and it's program leadership that started this. And this was in one of the most advanced, awarded and process mature organizations in all of defense. The same CMMI level 5 group that runs the Aegis weapon system programs.

Sure process helps but bad people can over rule the process. Good people in a poor process environment can produce a good product. Bad people in a great process environment can produce bad products. The real fix is to punish these people and organizations and make that very public. That will provide a deterrent. Everything else is either window dressing or will have much less of an impact. Strong and ethical leadership is far more important that good processes.

Dfens

Time to tell all, but no criticism of POGO on their blog. Pretty hypocritical, isn't it?

Dfens

This is an extreme example of what is wrong with every federally funded weapons program. The way the federal government structures its contracts encourages waste, fraud, and abuse. There is no down side to producing a piece of crap. If a contractor produces a vehicle that does not perform, all that means to them is they will later be paid more money to fix the problems they've created. The worse the problems they create, the more money they make fixing the problems.

The problem is not esoteric. It does not call into question the faith or decency of the people involved. It is simply a fact that there is no reward for good behavior in a federal contract. The only way available for a contractor to maximize their profit on a contract is to create problems.

Would you contract with a builder the way the federal government does? Would you tell a contractor that you'll reimburse them for all of their expenses plus pay them a 10% profit on top of those expenses for as long as it takes for them not to actually remodel your bathroom, but simply for them to develop the plans to remodel your bathroom? Why would you not do that? Why would you not be that stupid? Because you know that is nothing but an open invitation for the contractor to screw you. It is an open invitation for them to drag out the development process as long as possible.

To make things worse, would you hire a whole office full of people, people who don't know or like you, to watch over the contractor to make sure they did the work they were supposed to do on your bathroom project? Here again, you wouldn't be that stupid. You'd probably be able to figure out that your watchdogs know once the program is over, they're out of a job. What kind of watchdog are they going to be when the only monetary incentive they have is to drag out the contract, just like the first contractor you hired?

Then you let these contractors into your house, knowing full and well that after you've invested so much money with them you're not going to get rid of them. Then what do they do but build you a horrible bathroom? Pay them to fix it, naturally.

Sure none of us individually is this stupid. None of us individually would do this. Collectively, though, we are this stupid. Collectively we allow our government to do business in just this way. Then we complain when the contractors follow the monetary incentives in their contract to screw us. Which is it? Do you want to be screwed? That's what where your monetary incentive is. No one who didn't want to be screwed would provide a monetary incentive for a contractor to do that to them, would they?

Of course, blogs like this want you to think that it is your fellow Americans who are bad. It's not the system. It's not the way we do contracting. It's Americans who are bad. They need more watching. They need a stronger federal government complete with thought police to keep these bad Americans in line. Just because we give these people monetary incentives to screw us doesn't mean we are providing mixed messages. It means these contractors are full of bad Americans who need a much stronger government watching them. You can buy the crap POGO is pedaling, or you can fix the problem. Your choice.

Joe Carson

Dear Michael DeKort,

I'm a whistleblowing engineer too and can relate to much of what you detail. But your diagnosis is missing some important pieces, in my opinion, including:

1) where is our profession of engineering in this?

2) where is your/others faith community?

3) The US Office of Special Counsel, the federal law enforcement agency created to protect federal employees from agency lawbreaking, is a 30 year long lawbreaking fraud - the most corrupt and corrupting (relatively speaking, it is a tiny agency - 110 employees) federal law enforcement agency in our Country's history. The actions (or inactions) of civilian fedearl employees - in all agencies, including national security ones - cannot be properly understood absent an appreciation of the corrupting impact of OSC's lawbreaking. And our legal profession gives OSC's lawbreaking lawyers a "free pass."

I will reach out to your attorneys to try to contact you directly.

Joe Carson, PE

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