Argument for No-Bid Contracts?

The Israeli military is angry with the U.S. Government again (can you blame ’em?). This time it has to do with the Obama administration’s decision to publish all of the finer details of a missile defense system.

Via McClatchy:

Israel’s military fumed Monday over the discovery that the U.S. government had revealed details of a top-secret Israeli military installation in published bid requests.

The Obama administration had promised to build Israel a state-of-the-art facility to house a new ballistic-missile defense system, the Arrow 3. As with all Defense Department projects, detailed specifications were made public so that contractors could bid on the $25 million project. The specifications included more than 1,000 pages of details on the facility, ranging from the heating and cooling systems to the thickness of the walls.

“If an enemy of Israel wanted to launch an attack against a facility, this would give him an easy how-to guide. This type of information is closely guarded and its release can jeopardize the entire facility,” said an Israeli military official who commented on the publication of the proposal but declined to be named because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the facility. He declined to say whether plans for the facility have been altered as a result of the disclosure.

“This is more than worrying, it is shocking,” he said.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Wesley Miller said he couldn’t comment on the specifics of the Arrow 3 base, but he said the United States routinely published the details of its construction plans on a federal business opportunities website so that contractors could estimate the costs of jobs. He said such postings often might be revised after contracts were approved.

For some reason, the word “discretion” comes to mind. Yes, perhaps specifications for certain projects need to be public for the bid process. Conversely, perhaps there are certain projects that shouldn’t have all details made public. And certainly, there must be a way to narrow the scope of potential contractors and make such specifics only available to them.

The excuse that such highly sensitive details needed to be made public so that contractors could bid, seems to be a bit of a convenient one.

On the other hand, if this is the way things are done, perhaps there are circumstances under which no-bid contracts ain’t such a bad idea.