Lockheed Martin did something unusual this week. The world's biggest defense contractor lodged a protest with the Government Accountability Office over the conduct of an Air Force helicopter competition many months before a winner was due to be selected.
Contractors usually wait until an award is announced to mount protests. They rightly fear that if they complain while a competition is in progress, they will reduce their prospects of winning. But Lockheed thought the Air Force's behavior in this case raised such fundamental questions that it couldn't just go along to get along.
Very few observers understand what is going on here. Lockheed Martin is a contributor to my think tank and consulting client, and I've had the opportunity to hear what has its executives so upset.
Lockheed believes the Air Force is violating federal law and regulation in a bid to deprive offerors of their intellectual property -- in the process undermining Pentagon plans to do business with the kind of commercial technology companies that are on the cutting edge of innovation.
The Air Force urgently requires a replacement for its aging UH-1N helicopters, which provide missile-site security, protect nuclear-weapons convoys, and transport senior government officials in emergencies. However, its approach to buying new helicopters raises troubling questions.
Those companies, even more than traditional military contractors, jealously guard their intellectual property. IP often involves trade secrets and technical know-how that is crucial to an enterprise's profitability. However, Lockheed says the Air Force is making open-ended access to IP a condition for bidding in its helicopter competition, and it doesn't just want prime contractor data -- it wants proprietary information from all the subcontractors contributing to the finished airframe.
Lockheed says there is no way it can force suppliers to hand over rights to technical data or software code that in many cases has been developed using corporate funds rather than taxpayer money. Even when such know-how has been developed entirely with federal funds, government policy has been to license needed technical data rather than trying to own it. (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the Forbes Magazine website.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: It is especially ironic to see Lockheed Martin complain of a “data grab” by the US Air Force, given the way the company has gained control of the intellectual property (IP) rights to the F-35 program’s Autonomic Logistic Information System (ALIS).
These IP rights allow Lockheed to control all aspects of F-35 operations, and gives the company the exclusive right to decide how, when and at what cost to make it available to its national customers.
This situation was clearly denounced in Sept. 2016 by Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, then head of the Joint Strike Fighter Program Office, in testimony to a Congressionally-mandated inquiry.
“The lack of clear contractual language about ownership of technical data and software code has put the Pentagon in a bind and has limited the government’s options on how to maintain, upgrade and manage” the program, National Defense Magazine reported.
It quoted Bogdan as saying “I am playing catch-up now every which way I turn when it comes to intellectual property rights in the F-35 program.”
Click here for the full story, on the NDM website.