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Sikorsky, Pentagon Target Of Lawsuit Over Small Business Access

By Stephen Singer
Hartford Courant
April 14, 2017

A small-business advocate is fighting two behemoths in an effort to force the Pentagon to disclose a plan showing whether small businesses have access as suppliers of parts and services to Sikorsky Aircraft Corp.

Lloyd Chapman, president of the American Small Business League, an advocacy group he founded in 2002, has been fighting a legal battle against the Department of Defense, demanding details about a contracting program he says benefits large military contractors.

Chapman won a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in federal court, but will be back in court later this year following a successful appeal by Sikorsky, the Stratford-based helicopter maker, and the Defense Department.

Chapman, of Petaluma, Calif., said the government's Comprehensive Subcontracting Plan Test Program has failed to increase subcontracting opportunities for small businesses as intended.

"A program that eliminates transparency isn't going to help," he said.

The program eliminated transparency on small business subcontracting programs for the Pentagon's largest prime contractors and the Defense Department refuses to release information about the program, Chapman said.

A spokesman for the Defense Department did not immediately respond to an email and phone call seeking comment.

Sikorsky, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corp., said in a statement that it has complied with all small business requirements under Department of Defense guidelines. Information provided in Sikorsky's small business plan is sensitive and could be used by competitors and "was recognized as such" by federal judges who ordered the case back to a lower court, Sikorsky said.

A trial is set for December, Chapman said.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Friday he has not encountered widespread complaints by small businesses that contracting opportunities have been denied. But he will speak with companies to determine if suppliers are treated fairly, he said.

"There should be more transparency," said Blumenthal, D-Conn.

Promoting the many businesses in Sikorsky's supply chain is particularly important since the Malloy administration and legislature struck a deal with Lockheed Martin last year guaranteeing production of 200 U.S. Navy helicopters in Connecticut until at least 2032 in exchange for up to $220 million in loans and grants.

In addition to increasing manufacturing jobs over 14 years, Lockheed Martin agreed to nearly double its spending of $350 million a year with Connecticut suppliers. The intent is to spur more employment and spending among small subcontractors.

Chapman said he picked Sikorsky for his legal challenge "quite randomly."

"I'm hoping to prove this program is a fraud and a sham," he said.

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