About POGO

Nick Schwellenbach

Director of Investigations

nick@pogo.org |

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Nick Schwellenbach rejoined POGO as director of investigations in February 2017. Previously, he was the communications director at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. He was POGO’s director of investigations  from 2010 to 2012 and was an investigator from 2004 through 2008. He also was a senior fiscal policy analyst with the Center for Effective Government and a staff writer with the Center for Public Integrity​. Mr. Schwellenbach received his B.A. in history from the University of Texas-Austin and his M.A. in journalism from American University.

Nick’s work for POGO on excessive secrecy covering up serious misconduct by Justice Department attorneys won the Society of Professional Journalists-D.C. Chapter’s Robert D.G. Lewis Watchdog Award in 2015, its highest prize. He has led investigations into revolving door at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), labor trafficking by the U.S. military’s subcontractors in Iraq, whistleblower retaliation within the Department of Homeland Security, mismanagement of the Joint Strike Fighter F-35 program, and many other topics.

Health and Human Services Illegally Gags Its Employees from Communicating With Congress

May 9, 2017

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a memorandum to its employees on May 3, 2017, that gags its employees from speaking with Congress and violates the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 (WPEA; 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b)(13)). The memorandum was made public today by Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT).

POGO Letter to White House: Conflicted Advisors Should Be Subject to Ethics Laws

April 6, 2017

In a letter to White House Counsel, POGO urges the White House to make Stephen Feinberg and Carl Icahn subject to federal ethics laws given their vast conflicts of interest.

Justice Department's "Secret Law" Still Prevalent, Documents Show

March 22, 2017

The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel produces binding legal opinions on important issues, many of which are secret. POGO’s analysis shows that the Obama administration did not make OLC substantially more transparent. The Trump administration could chart a new path forward.

Survivor’s Guide to Being a Successful Whistleblower in the Federal Government

February 24, 2017

The decision to blow the whistle can be immensely patriotic: It could save lives, defend our constitutional rights against government overreach, and help preserve our democracy. But how do you blow the whistle and avoid retaliation?

How Whistleblowers Can Work With POGO

February 23, 2017

For decades, POGO has worked with government insiders to expose wrongdoing that affects the public. Learn how to work with POGO to spark change while staying anonymous.

Why Military Whistleblowers Fear Reprisal: When Taking Adverse Personnel Actions, the Chain of Command Often Gets a Pass

October 20, 2011

Each year, hundreds of uniformed members of the military send official complaints to Inspectors General (IGs) within the Department of Defense (DoD) saying that they are the targets of reprisal. Most do not have their claims of reprisal substantiated.

Leaked Audit: Boeing Overcharged Army Up to 177,000 Percent on Helicopter Spare Parts

June 28, 2011

$644.75 for a small gear smaller than a dime that sells for $12.51: more than a 5,100 percent increase in price. $1,678.61 for another tiny part, also smaller than a dime, that could have been bought within DoD for $7.71: a 21,000 percent increase. $71.01 for a straight, thin metal pin that DoD had on hand, unused by the tens of thousands, for 4 cents: an increase of over 177,000 percent.

POGO Letter to the Boeing Company regarding Airtech International Inc.'s product substitution

July 22, 2008

My organization, the Project On Government Oversight, revealed in May that The Boeing Company, along with other aerospace manufacturers, was being supplied with bogus materials by a composite materials supplier called Airtech International, Inc.

POGO Letter to the U.S. Air Force's Suspension and Debarment official on the Army's request for action against Airtech International Inc.

July 22, 2008

My organization, the Project On Government Oversight, revealed in May that the Army Criminal Investigation Command sent your office a letter in 2006 recommending debarment or some other action against Airtech International, Inc., for the company’s substantiated and decade-long pattern of bribery, kickbacks and fraud.

Testimony of POGO's Nick Schwellenbach on "Examining the Executive Branch Reform Act of 2007 and the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2007"

February 13, 2007

Thank you for inviting me to testify today in support of the "Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2007." Whistleblower protections need to be greatly improved if the Executive Branch—regardless of who is in the White House—is to be held accountable by the Legislative Branch, as our nation's founders intended.

Biologist Reinforces POGO’s Letter Concerning CDC Investigations

August 12, 2005

I write this letter as a concerned citizen and in reference to the letter dated July 6, 2005 , titled “POGO letter to Congress raising concerns with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigative ability"1, signed by Danielle Brian, Executive Director, Project on Government Oversight (POGO).

What to Look For Next: Leak Investigations and More Attacks on the Press

May 19, 2017

The administration has signaled it wants to aggressively go after the press and its sources. Congress should push back on attacks on the First Amendment.

Health and Human Services Illegally Gags Its Employees from Communicating With Congress

May 9, 2017

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a memorandum to its employees on May 3, 2017, that gags them from speaking with Congress and thus violates the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012. The memorandum was made public today by Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who expressed concerns with the HHS memo.

It Keeps Getting Worse for Michael Flynn

April 28, 2017

President Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn may be in legal trouble for failing to disclose information about his relationships with foreign governments.

Will Trump’s Veterans Affairs Exec Order Make a Difference to Whistleblowers?

April 27, 2017

President Trump is establishing another office at the VA focused on accountability and whistleblowers. Will it solve problems or create new ones?

Financial Sector Whistleblower Safeguards: Failing the Reality Test?

April 20, 2017

Barclays has announced investigations by British regulators of its CEO’s efforts to identify a corporate whistleblower, in an apparent breach of bank policies and regulatory duties. In attempting to breach the anonymity of the whistleblower, the CEO jeopardized the whistleblower program by signaling that employees reporting misconduct cannot be assured protection against exposure and retaliation.

Advisors to the President Should Be Subject to Ethics Laws

April 6, 2017

In a letter to White House Counsel, POGO urged the White House to make Stephen Feinberg and Carl Icahn subject to federal ethics laws given their vast conflicts of interest.

Trump’s Trademarks Pose Ethics Challenge for the Executive Branch

March 13, 2017

President Trump has trademark litigation before an executive branch panel—these judges ultimately work for Trump. Can they neutrally preside over a case involving him?

Private Prisons Are Back: Here's Why That's a Terrible Idea

February 27, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed the Justice Department’s decision last year to phase out its use of private prisons, despite new reports raising concerns about their use.

Pentagon Intensifies Efforts to Plug Leaks, Catch Leakers

October 18, 2012

Defense Secretary outlines plan to detect leaks of classified information and pursue leakers.

Blaming Pilots, Instead of the Machine

December 20, 2011

Are military accident investigation reports objective or are the conclusions of some reports being bent to blame pilots rather than flaws with expensive, highly controversial weapons systems?

Robert MacLean: Homeland Security Whistleblower

August 10, 2011

At the end of July 2011, Robert MacLean learned the outcome of over a year of waiting. He was waiting on a second ruling from the relatively obscure and awkwardly named Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB, or the “Board”). The three-member Board in Washington, DC, is an administrative quasi-court that handles federal government whistleblower claims of retaliation, among other things. MacLean is a former federal air marshal who blew the whistle in July 2003 on his agency, the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA. After lengthy reviews by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and two by this Board, the first one in 2009, MacLean lost his claim that he was retaliated against.

Is the F-22 Too Difficult to Use? Big Questions Surround Raptor's Grounding

July 12, 2011

Many pixels have been spilled on the recent grounding of the F-22 Raptor fleet, problems with the plane's oxygen systems, and the possible role of the oxygen system in the November 2010 crash of an F-22 in Alaska and death of its pilot. Here's a quick roundup of coverage of the latest problems facing this very expensive plane, followed by some questions that I think need to be answered.

Do Non-Disclosure Agreements Trump Protected Whistleblower Disclosures? Depends on Verb Tense, Appeals Court Says

June 27, 2011

On December 21, 2006, Robert Emmel signed a non-disclosure agreement with News America Marketing In-Store, LLC. This LLC is a part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation that does in-store marketing, such as "coupon and promotion dispensers, in-store video, at-shelf signage and floor and shopping cart advertising."

Documents Reveal Details of Alleged Labor Trafficking by KBR Subcontractor

June 14, 2011

In December 2008, South Asian workers staged a protest on the outskirts of Baghdad. The reason: Up to 1,000 of them had been confined in a windowless warehouse without money or work for as long as three months.

DoD Identifies 14 "Should-Cost" and "Will-Cost" Demonstration Programs

April 28, 2011

The Air Force, Army, and Navy have identified fourteen weapons programs where they will employ two management techniques to prevent massive cost overruns, according to an April 22 Department of Defense (DoD) memo obtained by Inside Defense.com.

Senator Pushes DCAA To Complete More Incurred Cost Audits

February 3, 2011

Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) prodded the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) to finish more incurred cost audits and decrease its backlog at the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Subcommittee on Contract Oversight hearing on Tuesday.

Energy Secretary Removes Linton Brooks

January 4, 2007

The head of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-autonomous branch of the Energy Department responsible for the nuclear weapons complex, is stepping down at the end of the month due to lapses within the complex. Ambassador Linton Brooks took charge of NNSA in 2002.

Brief PIDB Update

November 13, 2006

Los Alamos Safety Down the Tubes

September 12, 2006

Who's the Secret Senator?

August 29, 2006

SBX Assessment

August 28, 2006

Air Marshals Score Victories

August 25, 2006

Aviation Security Whac-A-Mole

August 24, 2006

What's New on POGO.ORG?

August 14, 2006

The GAO's Nuke Smugglin'

July 7, 2006

TSA Trying to Protect Its "Dubious Secrets"

July 6, 2006

Many 9/11 victim families have set their sights on the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) dubious Sensitive Security Information (SSI) secrecy marking. One of a number of so-called "sensitive but unclassified" (SBU) information designations, SSI has been abused by TSA to keep information from the public.

Safavian Found Guilty

June 20, 2006

Lewis Lied

June 12, 2006

Battling SEC Secrecy

May 29, 2006

The Black Budget Bonanza

May 25, 2006

No More Telethons?

May 11, 2006

Nine Fingers Disclosed

May 10, 2006

Just Flu It

November 4, 2005

The "Generic" Country

October 24, 2005

Katrina Contracts

September 14, 2005

February 15, 2017

Trump Fumes Over 'Criminal' Leaks as Culprits Risk Harsh Penalties

U.S. News and World Report | By Steven Nelson

January 26, 2017

Special Counsel Issues Reminder That Agencies Cannot Gag Whistleblowers

Government Executive | By Charles S. Clark