Sandia Corp. and parent company Lockheed Martin, which operate the federally-funded Sandia National Laboratories, agreed to pay $4.8 million to settle claims that the company used taxpayer money to lobby congress to extend its contract to manage the research facility in violation of federal law.
The Department of Justice opened an investigation earlier this year after an inspector general report showed the company used federal funds to stand up an in-house lobbying team to develop a strategy to extend the management contract for the facility at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, after it was set to expire in 2012.
Documents obtained by the IG revealed a strategy to influence congressmen and federal officials — including then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu. While these lobbying efforts were not explicitly illegal, laws and regulations prohibit the use of federal funds for such purposes.
"The money allocated by congress for the Sandia National Laboratories is designed to fund the important mission carried out by our national laboratories, not to lobby congress for more funding," said Benjamin Mizer, DOJ principal deputy assistant attorney general and head of the department's Civil Division.
Sandia was awarded a 12-month, $2.4 billion extension in 2012, which included two six-month add-ons. The contract was extended again for another two years in 2014, with an option for a third.
The National Nuclear Security Administration intendeds to hold an open competition for the contract in 2017, according to the IG report.
"Using public funds to lobby for a non-competitive extension of a contract is simply unacceptable," Energy Department Inspector General Gregory Friedman said after the settlement was announced. "I salute the work of the Department of Justice in pursuing this matter and the work of the Office of Inspector General professionals who were responsible for gathering the facts that served as the basis for the settlement."
Aaron Boyd is an awarding-winning journalist currently serving as editor of Federal Times — a Washington, D.C. institution covering federal workforce and contracting for more than 50 years — and Fifth Domain — a news and information hub focused on cybersecurity and cyberwar from a civilian, military and international perspective.