Deepwater whistleblower gets his day in court

Judge sets trial date for November 2010

A False Claims Act whistleblower lawsuit against the prime contractors for the Coast Guard’s $26 billion Deepwater acquisition program will go to trial in November 2010, a U.S. District Court judge has ruled.

Former Lockheed Martin Corp. engineer Michael J. DeKort filed the complaint against Integrated Coast Guard Systems, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman Corp. DeKort accused the companies of being seriously deficient in carrying out the contract and caused major safety, security and national security problems and wasted taxpayers' money.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, on Oct. 2 rejected a request from the defendants to dismiss the case, saying their request for dismissal was “moot.”

On Oct. 5, O'Connor issued a schedule for pleadings, naming of expert witnesses, identifying evidence, and a trial. He also instructed the parties to hire a mediator and attempt to come to an agreement to resolve the case. The trial will take place upon two days’ notice at any time during the four weeks that start Nov. 1, 2010.

Lockheed Martin officials have previously said the allegations are without merit and said they would “vigorously defend” against the lawsuit.

DeKort previously worked on Deepwaater’s command, control and communication systems. He left Lockheed Martin in 2004. He is seeking damages of up to $720 million along with civil penalties, legal costs and other relief in the lawsuit, according to his attorney.

Deepwater is the Coast Guard’s largest acquisition program. It includes the production of new assets including national security cutters and patrol boats.

The Coast Guard has acknowledged several significant problems with the program, and in 2007 the service rejected eight new patrol boats due to structural problems with the hulls. The Coast Guard is seeking a refund for $96 million for unsound patrol boats produced under Deepwater.

In False Claims Act lawsuits, plaintiffs can either pursue a case with or without the Justice Department. If the plaintiff wins, the government can collect damages of up to three times its losses and the plaintiff can collect 25 to 30 percent of the recovery amount. The Justice Department has not joined the Deepwater case.

About the Author

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

Reader Comments

Thu, Oct 15, 2009 Jerry Lacosta

Has BIG business now "bought" our entire Government? The Government and we, the Taxpayers, have $26 BILLION invested in this fraud & deception and the DoJ doesn't want to get involved? Why is NO ONE looking out for the taxpayers any more? Why isn't the DoJ taking the LRAD in this case? It's very sad when a private citizen has to try to protect our own government from itself.

Wed, Oct 7, 2009 Jaime Gracia Washington, DC

"DeKort accused the companies of being seriously deficient in carrying out the contract and caused major safety, security and national security problems and wasted taxpayers' money." Of course they did, it is called creating profit through low cost solutions. How do you think these large businesses continue feeding at the trough? The answer is by using the Government as an ATM when it comes to large acquisition programs. That is why every agency has its own system for the same issue, broken data, and outdated technologies that require a patchwork of fixes to run everything (e.g. Integrated Acquisition Environment). However, will Government officials who allowed this to happen also be held accountable? Doubtful. Why does the DoJ never get involved in these cases? Reminds me of the Custer Battles case where textbook corruption was happening, and DoJ did not care. The USCG is stepping up to fix Deepwater, and doing a much better job. However, it seems that it always takes some type of whistleblower case to shed light on these issues. Where is the oversight and accountability to the taxpayer?

Wed, Oct 7, 2009 Jerry De Lacosta California

Thanks for the "competent parties" post. I haven't laughed so hard in months! One question comes to mind. Outside of the Government, if a product doesn't meet your specs, you simply do NOT pay for it. Why did we the Goverment pay for them? One of the problems that is clear is that NO ONE is now looking out for the taxpayers and big business makes the rules. It's time for the worm to turn!

Wed, Oct 7, 2009 Washington, DC

Contracts must be between "Competent Parties". In the case of Deepwater, neither the government or the contractor met that test. The Coast Guard has taken big steps to improve itself. Can Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman say the same?

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