Military Leadership Must Protect Whistleblowers, Not Punish Them
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The Department of Defense must discipline military leaders who seek reprisal against whistleblowers.
The Military Whistleblower Protection Act of 1988 is supposed to protect military personnel who report wrongdoing from retaliation and restriction by military leadership.1 Over the years, the act has been updated and strengthened.
But the Department of Defense is not enforcing it.
The most recent report from the Office of the Inspector General — an independent, objective agency that provides program and operation oversight for the Department of Defense (DoD) — found that 350 DoD officials retaliated against or sought to intimidate 195 whistleblowers from 2013 to 2018. Most of the officials were in military services.2
Not only are DoD officials attempting to retaliate, but they are getting away with it. Glenn Fine, the principal deputy inspector general for the DoD, testified to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform in January of 2020 about a “small but disturbing trend” of the DoD disagreeing with substantiated investigation results and neglecting to dole out adequate punishment. This sends a troubling message that retaliation will be tolerated and that the system won’t protect whistleblowers.3
The firing of Captain Brett Cozier of USS Theodore Roosevelt has renewed calls for better protection for whistleblowers.4 Crozier wrote a strongly worded letter to Navy leadership about their lack of action concerning his urgent requests to help his crew during the COVID-19 pandemic. Two days after the letter was leaked to the media, Cozier was relieved of his position, with Navy leadership saying it was because he sent the letter to people outside his chain of command.5
Join us in telling the Secretary of Defense that the Military Whistleblower Protection Act needs to be more firmly enforced by the DoD. They must hold leadership accountable when investigations into their wrongdoing are substantiated.
Whistleblowers provide crucial information and expose rule violations. Sign the petition and help protect our service members from being punished for speaking out.
- “WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION PROHIBITIONS, RIGHTS, RESPONSIBILITIES 10 U.S.C 1034.” Kenneth M. Sharpless, U.S. Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, March 1, 2019
- “Pentagon harbors culture of revenge against whistleblowers.” John M. Donnelly, Roll Call, February 25, 2019
- “Protecting Those Who Blow the Whistle on Government Wrongdoing.” Glenn A. Fine, U.S. Department of Defense, January 28, 2020
- “It’s Hardly Shocking the Navy Fired a Commander for Warning of Coronavirus Threat. It’s Part of a Pattern.” Christian Miller and Megan Rose, ProPublica, April 4, 2020
- “Navy relieves captain who raised alarm about coronavirus outbreak on aircraft carrier.” Courtney Kube and Mosheh Gains, NBC News, April 2, 2020
Dear Secretary of Defense,
The Military Whistleblower Protection Act of 1988 is supposed to protect military personnel who report wrongdoing. However, the Department of Defense is not enforcing these protections properly.
The latest report from the OIG found that 350 DoD officials retaliated against or sought to intimidate 195 whistleblowers from 2013 to 2018, and that most of the officials were in military services.
The OIG also found that the DoD does not hesitate to disagree with the results of substantiated investigations and will not always hold those who retaliated accountable. This sends the message to whistleblowers that the system will not protect them. This, in turn, will result in less people willing to come forward.
We must protect our service members from being punished for speaking out about injustices in the military by firmly enforcing the Military Whistleblower Protection Act.
Whistleblowers deserve significant protection and those who try to retaliate against them deserve to be disciplined. I implore you to take action now.