(WASHINGTON)—The Project On Government Oversight released a new report today that examines existing dissent channels at federal agencies and makes recommendations on how to strengthen them.
At a time when the White House is explicitly hostile toward career government experts, it’s clear that federal workers need more effective, independent channels for constructively criticizing policy decisions and need better protections for expressing policy dissent. The report found that the existing channels at the State Department and other agencies are underutilized, and that the systems don’t provide sufficient incentives or protections for employees.
With improvements, dissent channels would offer a much-needed protected avenue for government experts to weigh in on policy matters. If employed effectively, these channels could improve policies or prevent ill-conceived proposals from taking effect.
Among several recommendations, POGO urges agencies with existing channels to allow staff to anonymously dissent, to set up systems for staff to appeal initial rejections of their policy dissent, and to provide public information on how the dissent channel is used and on whether users have reported facing retaliation. Many of the recommendations are based on best practices in place at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The White House must also embrace dissent and encourage agency leaders to do the same, and Congress should strengthen protections for federal workers who voice their concerns through dissent channels and in other ways.
“The federal government needs more robust systems to encourage federal workers to raise concerns about policy decisions,” said Nick Schwellenbach, senior investigator at POGO. “There’s untapped potential in dissent channels, and both Congress and the White House should bolster these systems. With reforms, dissent channels could improve policy decisions across the government.”
Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that investigates and exposes waste, corruption, abuse of power, and when the government fails to serve the public or silences those who report wrongdoing.
We champion reforms to achieve a more effective, ethical, and accountable federal government that safeguards constitutional principles.