Military Whistleblowers

The Department of Defense Inspector General (DOD IG) should coordinate with the military services to do a better job of protecting whistleblower confidentiality and addressing delays in handling cases, according to a new report.

The Government Accountability Office report found the IG offices have made progress since past reviews, but needs to do more to protect confidentiality. The review found that employees without “the need to know” have had access to sensitive whistleblower information.

While the timeliness of handling cases has improved in some areas, delays persist in others, according to the report.  For example, the average number of days to complete military and contractor reprisal investigations increased between 2017 and 2018 from 394 days to 541 days.

The DOD IG completed closed 73 investigations in 2018, including 13 senior official misconduct cases and 60 military, contractor, and civilian reprisal cases. However, about 85 percent of all investigations “did not meet the timeliness goals.”

Continue Reading GAO: Department of Defense is getting better at dealing with whistleblowers, but has some work to do.

U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) today introduced the Legal Justice for Servicemembers Act. This legislation would strengthen the protections for military whistleblowers and ensure that servicemembers receive the justice they deserve.

The legislation would ensure that claims of retaliation are fairly and thoroughly investigated by allowing servicemembers to decline investigation of their retaliation claim by a Service IG in favor of a higher-level review by the DODIG and requiring the DODIG to develop standardized training and investigation Continue Reading Legislation Introduced to Strengthen Protections for Military Whistleblowers

This morning, the AP released a story detailing the failure of the Department of Defense Inspector General’s (DoD IG) office to perform it’s two essential functions: (a) protect military whistleblowers and (b)investigate their claims. As one whistleblower in the story says: "They are supposed to serve as the conscience of the Department of Defense. And they’re not." The AP used Freedom of Information Act Requests and interviews with whistleblowers and advocates to determine multiple shortcomings:

 

  • Although DoD IG received over 3,000 whistleblower claims over the past six years, it found no wrongdoing by the military over 90% of the time.
  • 73% of the cases were closed after only a "preliminary review."
     
  • A confidential survey of the workers and managers in DoD IG found that the workforce was "demoralized and ambivalent." and that one-third of the employees there were described as "disaffected.

Revalations of this kind would be of concern in any agency or area of government, but this story is particularly worrisome. We know that the men and women serving our country in the military witness countless acts of fraud, waste, abuse, and much worse (think Abu Ghraib). The size of the Defense Budget, and the volume of lucrative government contracts to private corporations in recent years (see Bunny Greenhouse), has increased the need for oversight and whistleblower protection for military employees. Further, military whistleblowers are often more vulnerable to retaliation, and they often have no recourse whatsoever if their claim is rejected by the DoD IG.