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To Safeguard the Military, Congress Must Protect Whistleblowers

U.S. Army soldiers salute

(Photo: Samuel King Jr. / Flickr)

In a War is Boring op-ed last week, the Project On Government Oversight’s Danielle Brian and National Taxpayers Union’s Pete Sepp joined forces to urge the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conferees to maintain the integrity of military whistleblower provisions included in the House and Senate versions of the NDAA for FY 2016.

The stakes could not be higher for military whistleblowers who speak out against fraud, waste, abuse, and sexual assault in the military. Far too often, those whistleblowers are unfairly punished for their efforts to bring accountability to the armed services. The systems in place to protect them are completely inadequate. A recent report by the Government Accountability Office noted a number of deficiencies in the protections offered to members of the military who report wrongdoing, including reprisal investigations taking nearly three times the statutory limit. A previous internal review conducted by the Department of Defense Inspector General found its own staff had mishandled more than half of the military whistleblower reprisal cases they reviewed. 

The FY 2016 NDAA has the potential to usher in a new era of protection for military whistleblowers facing retaliation, and this could not be more important if Congress wants to safeguard the military. As Brian and Sepp pointed out in their piece:

Military whistleblowers often face retaliation from their superiors in return for their service to the public. Capt. Joshua Wilson and Maj. Jeremy Gordon told Congress that F-22 pilots experienced oxygen deprivation, disorientation and other adverse health effects. As a result, the Air Force retrofitted the entire fleet and altered procedures to enhance pilot safety. But the two whistleblowers were removed from flying the F-22, and Wilson’s piloting career was brought to a standstill.

Additionally, the op-ed points out that military whistleblowers help to protect the billions of dollars that Congress invests in the armed services:

The former Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction told the Center for Public Integrity that he largely credits tips from whistleblowers for his ability to uncover crimes on overseas government contracts in Iraq. However, most of those whistleblowers were not willing to be identified in court documents due to their fear of retaliation.

 POGO was joined by 20 other civil society organizations to send a letter to the conferees detailing which specific provisions we hope to see in the final NDAA.

By: Elizabeth "Liz" Hempowicz
Policy Counsel, POGO

Photograph of Elizabeth Liz Hempowicz is Policy Counsel for the Project On Government Oversight.

Topics: Whistleblower Protections

Related Content: SIGAR, NDAA

Authors: Elizabeth "Liz" Hempowicz

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