Oversight

Uncertainties may keep whistleblowers quiet

image of obama on phone

President Obama objects to whistleblower protections in the NDAA. (White House photo)

Will President Barack Obama’s attitude toward whistleblower protections in the National Defense Authorization Act have a dampening effect on those who might be inclined to expose misbehavior within agencies?

When he signed the NDAA for fiscal 2013 into law on Jan. 2, Obama said certain provisions limit his authority to manage agency officials and he would therefore view them within the context of his responsibilities as chief executive.

Obama’s statement creates doubt about how agencies will handle whistleblower protections for contractors, said Peter Tuttle, vice president of Distributed Solutions and a former Army officer.

“This is especially troubling in regard to the prohibition of reprisal,” he said. “Any doubt here will certainly affect the willingness of contractor employees to come forward and identify gross mismanagement, waste or abuses of authority on government programs.”

In other words, “nothing will be reported if there is no reprisal protection or if nobody is listening,” Tuttle said.

Obama warned lawmakers that his administration would seek to ensure that federal employees do not divulge privileged or confidential information to Congress in the course of exposing mismanagement. But experts say the government is run by a group of people who have known one another for years, and the administration will have a hard time controlling communications between them.

“Relationships happen over decades,” said Bob Woods, president of Topside Consulting Group and a key official in the federal IT community for nearly three decades. “People are married or related to others, and those relationships typically carry more importance than the latest bill language or stated wishes of the political newcomer.”

He added, “We cannot hold back the sea and the waves, no matter our intentions.”

The NDAA, which Obama signed into law Jan. 2, protects contractors from reperscussions when they disclose information that they reasonably believe is evidence of gross mismanagement, abuse of authority or violations of law, including regulations regarding contract competitions and negotiations.

Under the Act’s provisions, an employee cannot be demoted or dismissed unless the move takes the form of a non-discretionary directive and it is within the federal official’s authority to do so.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.

Featured

  • Shutterstock image (by wk1003mike): cloud system fracture.

    Does the IRS have a cloud strategy?

    Congress and watchdog agencies have dinged the IRS for lacking an enterprise cloud strategy seven years after it became the official policy of the U.S. government.

  • Shutterstock image: illuminated connections between devices.

    Who won what in EIS

    The General Services Administration posted detailed data on how the $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions contract might be divvied up.

  • Wikimedia Image: U.S. Cyber Command logo.

    Trump elevates CyberCom to combatant command status

    The White House announced a long-planned move to elevate Cyber Command to the status of a full combatant command.

  • Photo credit: John Roman Images / Shutterstock.com

    Verizon plans FirstNet rival

    Verizon says it will carve a dedicated network out of its extensive national 4G LTE network for first responders, in competition with FirstNet.

  • AI concept art

    Can AI tools replace feds?

    The Heritage Foundation is recommending that hundreds of thousands of federal jobs be replaced by automation as part of a larger government reorganization strategy.

  • DOD Common Access Cards

    DOD pushes toward CAC replacement

    Defense officials hope the Common Access Card's days are numbered as they continue to test new identity management solutions.

Reader comments

Mon, Jan 7, 2013

Leave it up to Oboma to think that he and his administration should not have to follow the same rules he expects everyone else to follow.

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group