In a double whammy of unusual but very welcome moves, the two leading federal agencies responsible for government whistleblower protections have moved to protect a high-profile Marine Corps science adviser, whose disclosures may have saved thousands of U.S. troops from death and injury.
Last Friday, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) requested that the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) issue a "stay" (a temporary halt) to the Marine Corps' plan to put Franz Gayl on indefinite suspension—in other words, end his employment. OSC requested the stay for 45 days so OSC investigators could investigate whether the indefinite suspension constitutes a prohibited personnel practice (PPP), specifically whistleblower retaliation.
OSC, among other things, “receives, investigates, and prosecutes allegations of PPPs, with an emphasis on protecting federal government whistleblowers.”
Gayl’s indefinite suspension was supposed to go into effect yesterday.
But now, lawyers for Gayl at the non-profit Government Accountability Project (GAP) learned that the MSPB granted that stay request and intervened to stop Gayl’s suspension until November 26 to allow OSC to investigate. The MSPB’s William C. Spencer wrote on behalf of the MSPB, “I find that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the agency [the Marine Corps] has decided to effect Mr. Gayl’s indefinite suspension and change in pay status [to unpaid] in violation of” whistleblower protection law.
The MSPB is an administrative court within the Executive Branch. The MSPB, among other things, hears complaints of federal employees alleging that they have been subject to adverse personnel actions as a result of their whistleblowing as well as cases brought to it by the OSC.
In 2007, Gayl disclosed to Congress and the public massive delays in procuring heavily armored Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles and nonlethal crowd dispersal technologies. Despite urgent requests from Marines in Iraq for those and other off-the-shelf technologies, those delays continued until they were publicly exposed. Then, MRAPs became the Defense Department’s number one acquisition priority, and thousands of MRAPs were manufactured and shipped to Iraq. In his last weeks as Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates said, thanks to MRAPs, “thousands and thousands of lives have been saved and multiples of that in terms of limbs."
POGO and GAP plan to mail a petition accompanied by the names of nearly 4,000 members of the public who have urged Leon Panetta, the current Secretary of Defense, to stop the retaliation against Gayl.