Disclosure of MDCP project information
With regard to possible disclosure of information related to your MDCP project, not all information receives the same the same treatment. Some of the most frequent distinctions in treatment are set forth below.
1. Details of export sale information provided by companies participating in MDCP projects are protected and are not released publicly.
a. Especially true of part A2 of the quarterly performance progress reports (PPRs).
As a reminder to companies that wish to participate in MDCP project activitys, every organization that proposes an MDCP project should include a proposed success agreement to be signed by each participant company. Included in each such agreement is the following:
"Information provided to the International Trade Administration (ITA) is intended solely for internal use. ITA will protect business confidential information to the full extent permitted by law and Administration policy. U.S. law prohibits U.S. government employees from disclosing trade secrets."
b. Generally not true of part B of the quarterly PPRs.
Ulike part A2, PPR part B is a summary of milestones achieved in conducting project activity and is available publicly on trade.gov/mdcp.
2. Information included in MDCP applications is generally public information that can be released to interested members of the public.
As a general matter, members of the public have a right to know how federal funds are being spent. Accordingly, an organization that receives an MDCP award should expect that its application can be viewed by any member of the public that requests to see it. A provision for not disclosing proprietary information exists under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exemption 4 as "information such as trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained by the government from a company on a privileged or confidential basis that, if released, would result in competitive harm to the company, impair the government's ability to obtain like information in the future, or protect the government's interest in compliance with program effectiveness." This provision is designed to cover, among other things, the type of export sale information described in 1. above; however, it is rarely appropriate for the type of information included in MDCP applications.
Any MDCP applicant that does decide to claim information as proprietary must justify the claim and identify what, in particular, should be treated as proprietary. Each page that contains such information must be clearly labeled at the top:
"This page contains proprietary information, identified between brackets , the release of which would cause competitive harm to (the organization claiming proprietary treatment)."
The actual proprietary information must be bracketed. The fact that proprietary treatment is claimed does not mean that the treatment claimed will be granted. If ITA does not agree with the justification, it informs the applicant or MDCP award winner that offered the justifiation. ITA may then take appropriate action, including release of the information if requested.
3. Examples of information that some MDCP applicants might choose not to disclose publicly.
Normally, all or almost all of the information in an MDCP application will be disclosed. Because practically all MDCP applicants are non-profit or state/regional government entities, they do not compete in the the marketplace for customers per se, therefore, they may not suffer "competitive harm" directly in the way that a private business would if certain information were disclosed. Still, disclosure may cause competitive harm in other ways or would impair ITA's ability to obtain like information in the future, or protect ITA's interest in compliance with MDCP effectiveness. Two examples follow:
- Salary and/or benefits and other sensitive personnel information: Such information is typically included in the project budget narrative. It is usually required in order for ITA to access the viability of proposed projects. It would be difficult, if not impossible for ITA to assess applications without such information. Conversely, its disclosure may put the applicant at a competitive disadvantage in personnel matters. Or, if its disclosure discourages MDCP applicants from providing the detail needed by ITA, the agency would no longer have sufficient information to make a thorough assessemt.
- Names of firms pledging to commit to project activity: This information is critical to ITA's evaluation of support among the U.S. industry that the applicant seeks to help to export. The release of such information might not directly affect the competitive position of the non-profit MDCP applicant, but it might affect the competitive position of one or more of the companies named. Its release might also affect the applicant's ability to solicit information from individual companies. A relationship of trust in soliciting sensitive business information is critical to the success of any MDCP project. The reporting of individual export sales is something that ITA witholds from public disclosure. Were ITA to do otherwise, export reporting, and by extension, the success of the program, would be greatly diminished.