Bogus Arguments Against Transparency

by on September 29, 2009 · 19 comments

Testifying in a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing today, Trey Hodgkins of technology trade association “TechAmerica” offered some pretty bogus excuses for resisting transparency in government contracts.

[I]f disclosure included posting to a public website the unredacted contract, a number of critical elements would be exposed. Something as simple as identifying the location where work is to be performed could reveal the geographic location of crucial components of our National and Homeland Security apparatuses, thereby exposing them to attack, disruption or destruction. Similarly, if data about program capabilities were to be disclosed as part of the public disclosure of contracting actions, adversaries could evaluate the supply chain, identify critical production components and, by attacking that component, disrupt our security. Data aggregated from published contracting actions also would allow adversaries to discern and reverse-engineer our capabilities and identify our weaknesses.

From a corporate perspective, disclosure of data from a contracting action—particularly the publication of an unredacted contract—would expose intellectual property, corporate sensitive and technical data to industrial espionage and allow corporate competitors to aggregate data, such as pricing methods, and weaken the competitive posture of a company in the government and commercial markets.

There is a remote possibility of risk to domestic security in some contracts, but the public benefits of disclosure vastly outstrip those risks. Hodgkins’ veiled pants-wetting about terrorism is a crock.

The corporate interests Hodgkins cites are balderdash. If you want to do government contracting, you are going to be involved in a public contracting process. Get over it or get out of the business.

I have not been impressed with “TechAmerica” since it was formed by the merger of several smaller trade associations. Hodgkins and TechAmerica should get on the other side of this issue, figure out how to protect what needs protecting, and disclose the rest.

I look forward to seeing something from “TechAmerica” that is actually innovative and not just slavish pursuit of government contracts, good public policies be damned.

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