Deepwater can't shake DOJ's watchful eye

The Justice Department continues to monitor a whistle-blower's allegations against the prime contractor of the Coast Guard's Deepwater program, but so far has not launched its own investigation.

Just officials recently passed up an opportunity to formally join in the lawsuit filed by former Deepwater engineer Michael DeKort. But the department continues to examine allegations raised in the case and may choose to get involved later, according to a spokesman.

Deepwater is a $24 billion program to modernize the Coast Guard's fleet and bring on board more communications and information technology capabilities. 

“We did decline to intervene, but we are still looking at the case,” Charles Miller, a Justice Department spokesman, said June 8. “We do that occasionally. We are looking into allegations, (but) I don’t want to call it an investigation.”

“We have to look at it, and it takes time, and sometimes we find things that may not have been related. These cases can take years sometimes before we have enough information to pursue or not pursue” intervention, Miller told Washington Technology.

DeKort filed the False Claims Act lawsuit against Integrated Coast Guard Systems — a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. — claiming that deficient work by the contracts has created major safety, security and national security problems on the Deepwater assets. The Coast Guard separately is pursuing a $96 million refund for allegedly flawed boats produced under the contract.

A Lockheed Martin spokesman said the company would “vigorously defend” against the charges in the False Claims lawsuit, which it said it had investigated on its own and found to be without merit. Northrop Grumman declined to comment.

In False Claims Act lawsuits, plaintiffs can either pursue a case with the Justice Department or without the department. If a case is won, the government can collect damages of up to three times its losses, in this case, $720 million, and the plaintiff can collect 25 to 30 percent of the recovery amount, in this case, $252 million.

Samuel Boyd, attorney for DeKort, said the lack of Justice Department intervention to date is no reflection on the substance of the case but is more likely to reflect scheduling and personnel constraints in the department.

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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