Pentagon watchdog weak on whistleblowers

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Last week, the Associated Press broke an intriguing story about plummeting morale in the Pentagon’s top oversight agency, the Office of Inspector General. So troubled is the office, AP reported, that it may be feeding into a high rejection rate of military whistleblower complaints.

In response to a request by PaperTrail, the IG’s office has now posted the report, which raises troubling questions about this key Pentagon watchdog.

Another still-confidential report by the office of Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) reveals that the IG’s office “rejected claims of retaliation and stood by the military in more than 90 percent of nearly 3,000 cases during the past six years,” according to the AP.

“Anything in the single digits raises serious red flags,” says Adam Miles, a whistleblower advocate at the nonprofit Government Accountability Project, told PaperTrail. A whistleblower system that works well should at least find partial merit in 25 to 30 percent of whistleblower cases, Miles added.

An IG report to Congress earlier this year found that the part of the IG's office that handles military whistleblower cases has seen its staff drop from 22 to 19, while the number of whistleblower cases it handles has increased substantially.

Grassley expressed concern about one of the cases in particular, that of Navy officer Jason Hudson, in an October 23 letter to the IG. Hudson was removed from his job overseeing Navy recruiters and received a negative performance evaluation after speaking out against a 2002 recruitment policy that favored white candidates over Hispanics and blacks. "The evidence seems to indicate that your office did not ask the Navy one single substantive question about the way the Hudson investigation was being conducted," Grassley said in the letter to acting inspector general Gordon Heddell.

Previous outside reviews of the IG's office have shown that the office is plagued by low morale and has had trouble handling whistleblowers. The contractor MPRI conducted an assessment in 2002 and "found minimal evidence” that the office “has played a substantial role in protecting external whistleblowers in civilian DoD jobs, in uniform, or in the employ of military contractors." Furthermore, the IG's office has been "hostile" to internal whistleblowers. "As a result," MPRI said, "festering waste, fraud, and abuse within civilian and military DOD components may be placing lives and taxpayer dollars at risk."

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