Yes，it is more serious in the case of a defense contractor to possess confidential information about a competitor.
Specific features of greater seriousness of possession of confidential information in defense industry contracting
Great deals of people are involved. In Maine Bath Iron Works was the largest private employer with 10,400 employees. As BIW’s only competitor Ingalls Shipbuilding in Mississippi must have a comparatively large amount of about 10,000 employees too. Calculate as 4 people in one family, and then there will be 80,000 people involved. Not mention thousands suppliers which rely heavily these two defense contractors. Within this case if BIW did not timely correct the situation and used the confidential document to make it in advantage in the bidding process but later found out by the independent investigation of the navy then BIW would probably be deprived of the qualification as a defense contractor. If so, an estimated one million people will be affected and a temporarily social unrest was anticipated in Main state.
It is about top secrecy of national defense. Just as what was printed on the confidential document in this case: business sensitive, most of information that the defense contractors may contact or hold is of top secrecy of the national defense and should not be treated like commodities. If papers of top secrecy could be allowed to copy and delivered like what had been done to the “business sensitive” document it’s foreseeable that some executive would bring it home to continue the computer base modeling analysis. Sooner or later accidents will happen. Once because of the lame confidential work some top confidential papers are leak out from the a defense contractor and obtained by some hostile parties like terrorist then 911 could no longer be the largest terrorist attack in the US history. So when the issue is about the national interest, extraordinary ethical issue intensity should be attached to it. And any tiny wrongdoing must be strictly prevented in case that a big disaster will be created from it.
Defense industries have different rules from other industries. My sister work in the hospital as a nurse, she always wears mask in the public places outside her workplace-the hospital because she has used to wearing it. As she told me once, they (the nurses) must wear mask even there is no patients, simply because this is rule. Every industry has its own rule that is overwhelmingly compulsory. As in the defense industry any unauthorized access to sensitive information is strictly prohibited, this is rule in this industry and it is well understandable. In this case employees in BIW were not allowed to open the document marked with “business sensitive” without the permission from the navy. Even there was just some blank papers according to the rule because they had know that document was “sensitive” and most probably was left by the navy officials the day before, according to the rule what was expected of senior managers from BIW was to return the document to the navy without actions and hesitation.
Creditability is the base requirement of a defense contractor. Like a signature to a certified public accountant, creditability and promises keeping is critical to a defense contractor. Because BIW was a signatory to the DII and had agree to abide any federal procurement laws including the federal Procurement Integrity Act which clearly require the defense contractors to certify that they have not been in unauthorized possession of any proprietary information. So if BIW use the stealing information in business then it does lose its creditability and break its promises to the military and once the navy knows this BIW is not far from applying chapter 9 or being nationalized.