BK Blog Post
Posted by Tom Devine.
Tom Devine is legal director of the Government Accountability Project, where he has worked to assist thousands of whistleblowers to come forward and has been involved in the all of the campaigns to pass or defend major whistleblower laws over the last two decades.
After both chambers of Congress passed their versions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2017, twenty-eight public interest organizations and advocacy groups sent a letter to leadership of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees and encouraged them to maintain the integrity of the military whistleblower provisions in the bill through conference.
The letter cautions, “While military whistleblowers play an important role in safeguarding our nation from fraud, waste and abuse, speaking out against wrongdoing is particularly challenging for servicemembers.” A 2015 report by the Government Accountability Office found that the military is plagued by widespread whistleblower retaliation, and according to a 2014 government survey, a quarter of Department of Defense Inspector General employees fear reprisal if they disclose a suspected violation of law.
First analyzing the House NDAA, the groups highlight one section bettering burdens of proof for whistleblowers and another ensuring whistleblower reprisal training for investigators. Drawing from the letter, they explain the necessity of the Whistleblower Protection Act burdens of proof as follows:
When compared to civilian employees, whistleblower protections for servicemembers are severely limited. The burdens of proof that military whistleblowers must meet are particularly oppressive. In military reprisal cases, servicemembers must prove retaliation was illegal; in civilian cases, the agency must prove retaliation was not illegal. Burdens are greater for military personnel than for civilians. Consequently, the Department of Defense and Service Inspectors General are unable to substantiate the vast majority of allegations they receive. This section applies the Whistleblower Protection Act burdens of proof language, found in every other whistleblower law since 1989, to the Military Whistleblower Protections Act.
The letter identifies the following provisions in the Senate NDAA as those that will empower military whistleblowers:
Overall, both bills include responsible and overdue reforms to strengthen military whistleblower protections. GAP and our coalition partners look forward to working with the Congressional Armed Services Committees to ensure that the provisions are maintained in the reconciled NDAA.
The full letter can be viewed here
Letter signatories include:
American Civil Liberties Union
American Library Association
Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation
Bogdan Dzakovic, FAA Whistleblower
Center for Defense Information
Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights
Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association
Government Accountability Project
Human Rights Watch
Just Foreign Policy
Law Office of Elaine Mittleman
Marvell D. Lavy, DVA Whistleblower
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Taxpayers Union
National Workrights Institute
Project On Government Oversight
Protect Our Defenders
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)
Restore The Fourth
Service Women's Action Network
Taxpayers Protection Alliance
The James Madison Project
The Rutherford Institute