An internal report by the Pentagon says reporting misconduct or waste of money might get U.S. military personnel punished.
The Department of Defense's unit which is supposed to protect whistleblowers is more likely to ignore this, according to a report that has surfaced recently.
The Washington Post has reported that according to the document, dated May 2011, officials in the Office of Inspector General (IG) of the Department of Defense have systematically disregarded the Pentagon's set rules, intended to protect whistleblowers.
The document was obtained by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) under the Freedom of Information Act. POGO is a non-profit watchdog group.
According to a previously undisclosed copy of the report, it accuses officials in the Defense Department's Office of Inspector General of "persistent sloppiness and a systematic disregard for Pentagon rules meant to protect those who report fraud, abuses and the waste of taxpayer funds."
The document is based on a probe which reviewed performance of the Directorate for Military Reprisal Investigations. It states that the Directorate turned down evidence of serious reprisals against whistleblowers on several occasions.
Punishments for whistleblower actions included either threatened or actual discharges, firings, prosecution, demotions and mental health referral.
Quoting one case - a complainant suffered reprisals for writing to Congress, which is an act considered to be protected communication by the Pentagon. A second case was closed on the grounds that punishment was not related to the complainant's whistleblowing, even though an officer had confirmed that it was.
Overall, investigators had disputed the office's decision to turn aside more than half of the cases reviewed, a total of 82 out of 152 cases in a random sample taken from fiscal year 2010.
The investigations unit was formed in the 1990's in response to hearings and legislation highlighting the military's use of career-hindering mental health evaluation against whistleblowers. The unit currently has 51 employees whose duty is to investigate complaints of prohibited reprisals in the service.
Due to this report, the Department of Defense's deputy inspector general for administrative investigations, Marguerite C. Garrison, reorganized the office and started an overhaul of its manual. However independent experts are skeptical about this overhaul.
Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight has stated: “This devastating report proves one of our worst fears – that military whistleblowers have systematically been getting a raw deal.”
Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) expressed “grave concern” about the findings of this report. He warned in a letter to the Department of Defense's acting IG: “Heads must roll. The root cause problems identified in this report must be addressed and resolved immediately.”
However, the reply to Grassley dated April 26, stated: “I strongly disagree with the assertion in your letter that OIG officials knowingly ignored the law and showed disrespect for military whistleblowers and the core IG mission.”
This reply left matters rather in the air as to whether anyone would be held accountable and did not state what reforms will be or have been put in place.