Whistle-blowers generally are not the most popular folks with their bosses when they report improper or illegal conduct by their employers. That is especially true when it comes to military whistle-blowers. They don’t get much help at all from the Pentagon Inspector General, the internal watchdog for the Defense Department. In fact, according to reports, the Inspector General hardly ever sides with service members who complain that they were punished for reporting wrongdoing. A review of cases by The Associated Press revealed how tough it has been for federal whistle-blowers.
The Inspector General’s office rejected claims of retaliation and stood by the military in more than 90% of nearly 3,000 cases during the past six years. More than 73% were closed after only a preliminary review that relied on available documents and sources ‘ often from the military itself ‘ to determine whether a full inquiry was warranted. If you took this at face value it would indicate the high rejection rates suggest scores of complaints aren’t valid. But critics, including a Republican senator, wonder whether many valid cases are dismissed before being carefully examined because of negative attitudes in the Inspector General’s office.
We learned from the Associated Press study that whistle-blower reprisal cases are handled by a small team in the Inspector General’s office called Military Reprisal Investigations (MRI). They perform the investigation or make sure the military department in charge does it properly. Nine out of ten cases come from soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines. The rest come from defense contractors and Pentagon workers who aren’t considered regular federal employees.
Military whistle-blowers aren’t the only federal employees who have a difficult time. According to statistics from the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency that reviews most of the reprisal cases filed by civilian government employees, the situation in other federal agencies is about the same. Between 2002 and 2007 ‘ the latest statistics available ‘ the Special Counsel received nearly 4,500 reprisal complaints. In 334 of them, or 7.4%, the office ruled in favor of the whistle-blower.
Military reprisal complaints are supposed to be settled within 180 days. Yet over the past ten years, the number of employees assigned to investigate such cases has dropped from 22 to 19 people while the workload has increased by 68%, according to a report to Congress. According to the report, meeting the 180-day requirement will remain an elusive goal without more employees. The government survey obtained by the AP was conducted in June by the Corporate Leadership Council, a business research company in Arlington, Virginia. More than half of the nearly 1,500 employees in the Inspector General’s office responded. I believe whistle-blowers must be protected and not punished when they report wrongful acts.
Source: Associated Press
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