Saturday, February 15, 2020

AAWSAP was a "Commercial in confidence" agreement

"Commercial in confidence"

In a recent article by Tim McMillan, he argued, based on evidence which he has collected, that the Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Applications Program (AAWSAP) was a "Commercial in confidence" agreement between the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS.)

We have known for some time that the DIA issued a solicitation in August 2008 for work to be undertaken on AAWSAP, and that BAASS was the successful bidder for the contract which ran between 2008-2012.

Upon reading McMillan's article, I firstly wondered if a "commercial in confidence" agreement would explain the lack of publicly available follow up documentation, stating that BAASS was the successful bidder? A check of the Federal Business Opportunities website which hosted the online DIA AAWSAP solicitation, showed that there was no public announcement that BAASS was the successful company. To my knowledge, no-one else has ever found such an announcement either.

Work by Jack Brewer

This sent me off to look at a Jack Brewer blog post, dated 1 August 2019, titled “DIA Withheld AASWAP contract awarded to BAASS in 2011 FOIA request.”

In the 2011 DIA online FOIA requests log, I had found that an individual named Quincy Wilkins had requested a copy of the AAWSAP contract from the DIA by FOIA request. Jack Brewer then cleverly submitted a 2019 FOIA request asking the DIA for a copy of what they gave Wilkins.

Three pages of the six pages found, in response to Brewer's 2019 FOIA request, were withheld entirely by the DIA, due to FOIA exemptions 3, 4 and 6. In their response to the FOIA, the DIA stated that “Exemption 4 applies to information such as trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person on a privileged or confidential basis.” Note that of the nine types of exemptions which could have been applied, 3 refers to information that is exempt under other laws and 6 refers to personnel and medical files. One might expect that exemption 1, which refers to classified information for national defense or foreign policy, would be relevant here, but this exemption was not cited. 

Image courtesy of Jack Brewer

Note the use of the word “commercial.”

One of the documents released to Wilkins was a letter from DIA to BAASS dated July 2011. It advised that successful bidders for DIA contracts, were advised when the DIA got a FOIA request relating to that contract.

Image courtesy of Jack Brewer

“Upon review of contract HHM402-08-C-0072 the DIA, determined that the highlighted portion should be withheld from the requester, under the provision of the Freedom of Information Act. Please advise this office of what, if any, additional portions of the enclosed contract should be withheld. Your reply must include a detailed explanation of any competitive harm to your company should the material be released.”

Note the use of the word “competitive.”

The above seems, to me, to support McMillan's suggestion that the DIA AAWSAP was a "Commercial in confidence" agreement.

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