Hon. Stuart L. Brown
Internal Revenue Service
1111 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20224
Dear Mr. Brown:
At the facilitation meeting on October 9, 1996, we agreed to develop a protocol for handling requests for procurement and other sensitive information that the Commission may need to review in the course of preparing its report. This letter outlines such a protocol.
First, we agree that information obtained by the Commission's staff is sensitive and must be protected. To that end, the Co-Chairs and I have instituted a confidentiality policy for the staff. This policy instructs the staff that all information obtained in the course of Commission business is confidential, and to be used for the official business of the Commission only. In addition, the staff has been briefed on their responsibilities under the relevant statutes, including the Procurement Integrity Act and the Trade Secrets Act, and they have executed certifications acknowledging both receipt of the briefing and that they understand their responsibilities.
Second, with regard to the Procurement Integrity Act, we agree that it applies to ongoing or future procurements only. Contractor bid or proposal information and source selection information relating to completed procurements is not protected from disclosure under the Procurement Integrity Act. To the extent that any contractor information is nonetheless proprietary to the contractor, and therefore protected by the Trade Secrets Act, we understand that it should not be disclosed without giving the contractor an opportunity to object. We have agreed that the IRS will notify contractors whenever any such information (whether it relates to an ongoing or a completed procurement) is to be released to the Commission or its staff, notifying the contractor that the information will be released after 10 days if no objections are made. If the contractor objects to the release of the information, then the relevant member of our staff who is subject to and has been briefed on the Procurement Integrity Act and the Trade Secrets Act will be allowed to review (but not copy) the documents in your building.
We agree that the IRS will notify us when information requested by the Commission's staff is protected. That information will be reviewed by the Chief of Staff, the Chief Counsel, and the appropriate Senior Policy Advisor or Counsel of the Commission's staff only. Discussions with regard to such information will not be conducted in the presence of other staff. All protected documents will be stored nightly in the safe controlled by the Commission's Chief Counsel. The Commission will establish procedures so that only authorized persons have access to these materials.
Before any sensitive information relating to ongoing or future procurements is released to the Commission and to the public, we will provide copies of the information proposed to be released to the IRS. We agree to work together with the IRS and the Office of Chief Counsel to ensure that information released by the Commission through our briefing materials will not jeopardize any ongoing or future procurements.
In order to avoid any appearances of impropriety, we agree that protected information will not be disclosed to the Commission before it is made available to the public. Thus, briefing materials that include any information that may be considered sensitive will be provided to the press at the same time that it is provided to the Commission. In addition, a notice that the information is available for public inspection will be published in the Commerce Business Daily (CBD).
Third, in order to provide the public with a full understanding of this protocol and our intent to protect the integrity of trade secrets and ongoing or future procurements, we will provide the press with copies of this protocol. In addition, a copy will be provided for publication in the CBD.
The Commission staff and I look forward to working with the IRS and the Office of Chief Counsel to ensure that the Commission is in full compliance with the requirements of the law. Maintaining the public trust in the fairness and integrity of our Government is of the highest priority for the Commission and its staff.
Jeffery S. Trinca
Chief of Staff
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