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Defense Department culture punishes whistleblowers

A recent report by the Pentagon’s inspector general shows that the Defense Department, especially the Pentagon, harbors a culture that punishes whistleblowers.

The IG’s office found that from 2013 to 2018, 350 Defense Department officials were found to have retaliated or sought to intimidate 195 whistleblowers. In all, only one of the officials who retaliated against a whistleblower has been fired.

Report delivered to Congress in November

The IG’s report, delivered to Congress in November, outlines many cases of whistleblowers who made truthful disclosures of wrongdoing only to face official retribution, which included withdrawal of security clearances, derogatory performance evaluations and written reprimands.

In the cases of those who retaliated against whistleblowers, most took no punitive action or issued a simple verbal or written reprimand.

Harassment and fraud

Most of the complaints from whistleblowers involved sexual harassment, procurement fraud and unethical behavior.

The report offered several examples:

  • An Army master sergeant who witnessed sexual harassment had his security clearance revoked and was issued a derogatory performance evaluation.
  • An Air Force captain who complain of understaffing was demoted and had reimbursement of legitimate expenses withheld.
  • An Air Force master sergeant who reported safety concerns had his performance report downgraded.

Experts say the message is loud and clear, When the Pentagon fails to hold accountable those who retaliate against whistleblowers, it’s in the whistleblower’s best interest not to talk.

People who work for the Department of Defense, including active military members, should not hesitate to seek advice from a qualified attorney who has handled many whistleblower cases.

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