This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A Utah employee of giant defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. alleges in a lawsuit that the company has been faking tests of its navigation system and then selling faulty units to the armed forces where it is used in manned aircraft, drones, missiles, submarines and other vehicles.
Todd Donaldson, a Northrop Grumman employee for more than 25 years, alleges in a federal court lawsuit that technicians were instructed to manually type in "pass" so it appears on results after seeing that the navigation units typically failed the required tests, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for Utah in September but only made public on Friday.
Northrop Grumman, which has its headquartered in Falls Church, Va., did not immediately return an email seeking a response to the allegations.
Donaldson was a manager for more than 10 years in the Navigation Systems Division in Salt Lake City that manufactures the LN-100 Inertial Navigation System/Global Positioning System, which the complaint says "is absolutely essential to the proper functioning of the myriad weapons, vehicles, and other equipment in which it is installed."
Each unit is required to undergo testing before it is sold to the armed forces for from $60,000 to $100,000 or more. One procedure tests whether a unit can communicate properly with GPS satellites.
Failure of that function "presents a grave danger of erroneous navigation, leading to crashes and weapons failing to hit their targets," the lawsuit says.
But the GPS test "is somewhat time consuming" at about 10 minutes and the units "typically fail," the lawsuit claims. As a result, the company has technicians manually key in positive responses.
It also alleges the company has not been using proper "calibration files," a defect not typically caught in testing "but then the units fail when used by the U.S. armed forces in field conditions."
Donaldson claims he was demoted because of his complaints to higher ups. He filed the suit under the federal False Claims Act, which makes it illegal to file false or fraudulent claims for payments from the federal government or a contractor.
The law allows people who are outside of government to file claims on its behalf and whistleblowers receive a portion of any monies won back.