More than seven years after he first raised concerns about a lack of safe military vehicles in Iraq—truth telling that got him reprimanded and suspended—Marine science advisor Franz Gayl can finally get back to work. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced today that the Marine Corps and Gayl have settled his whistleblower case through OSC’s mediation program.
Gayl blew the whistle in 2007 because of the Pentagon’s delay in delivering Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs) to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In an interview with USA Today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the delivery of the MRAPs—hastened because of the attention Gayl drew to the issue—saved “thousands and thousands of lives.” According to Gates, MRAPs are 10 times safer than the Humvees that they replaced.
Gayl, a retired Marine Corps major and current civilian employee, also spoke publicly about the flawed whistleblowing system he encountered while speaking out about the delivery delays. According to a press release from the Government Accountability Project, which offered legal counsel for Gayl, the suggestions he and national security whistleblower Robert MacLean made were eventually incorporated into President Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive 19, which extends protections to whistleblowers with access to classified material.
Gayl’s disclosures resulted in real, positive change. Unfortunately, instead of being praised, he was harshly retaliated against. His punishments included reprimands, suspensions, harassment, personal abuse, denial of bonuses, a lengthy criminal investigation that found no wrongdoing and a rewritten job description that took away the scientific functions he had been hired to do. Eventually, his superiors made it completely impossible for him to do his job by suspending his access to classified materials, placing him on administrative leave and banning him from the Pentagon.
Things started to turn around in 2011, when OSC began investigating Gayl’s case and requested that the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) issue a "stay" to the Marines’ plan to put Gayl on indefinite suspension. The MSPB granted the request and the case eventually moved into mediation.
As a result of the mediation, the Marine Corps will create a team that will develop guidelines to help service members and civilian employees understand their whistleblower rights. Gayl is the first publicly announced member of the team.
In addition, the settlement maintains Gayl's current position as a Marines Corps science advisor.
The Project On Government Oversight has been advocating for and supporting Gayl through much of his ordeal. In 2008, POGO urged the Senate to hold the Marine Corps responsible for its treatment of Gayl, and in 2010, POGO sent a letter to Secretary Gates, urging him to end the retaliation against Gayl. POGO also collected signatures from thousands of supporters who demanded that Gayl be reinstated.
“We are extremely proud to have advocated on Mr. Gayl’s behalf over the past seven years and are gratified to see that the Marine Corps and Pentagon have finally recognized his actions, which sped up the delivery of MRAPs and saved thousands of lives,” POGO executive director Danielle Brian said.