Former DISA comptroller alleges retaliation
- By Sean Lyngaas
- Apr 24, 2015
The Defense Information Systems Agency's former comptroller has accused the agency of demoting him after he reported accounting practices he believed were potentially illegal.
"I went from comptroller to currently I'm sitting in an eight-by-ten office … and I've been told by [DISA Director Lt. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins] I'm not to communicate, for any business reasons, with the agency while I'm under this so-called detail," Jimaye Sones, who was DISA comptroller from 2005 to 2013, told FCW in an exclusive interview.
Sones has alleged that, starting in the fall of 2012, he began warning DISA's leadership that the agency risked violating the Anti-Deficiency Act, which bars federal employees from spending unappropriated funds. When Sones reported the issue to the Defense Department CIO's office, he alleged, Hawkins told him to "sit on your hands" as he was reassigned to lower positions within DISA. "He was not candid at all in his conversations with me as to why he was doing it, and I asked several times," Sones said of Hawkins.
A statement from Sones' legal team said that the DOD inspector general is investigating the alleged financial improprieties, and that the U.S. Office of Special Counsel was investigating the claims of retaliation. DISA spokeswoman Cindy Your declined to comment for this story, citing a policy of not commenting on ongoing investigations.
Congress has taken note of Sones' fate. Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) sent a letter April 22 to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter asking the Pentagon chief to investigate Sones' allegations. According to the letter, the DISA inspector general conducted an audit of an agency billing process related to the negative cash balance Sones says he discovered. The audit concluded that the billing process had violated DOD Financial Management Regulations and should be discontinued, the letter said.
Sones said he told a member of Grassley's staff of the audit's findings, and within days was reassigned to a Pentagon working group on accounting software.
"I went ... from top financial person in the agency to one that had no financial responsibility," he said. "I went from reporting outside the department to only reporting inside the department."
In a statement, Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson said "The department has received the letter from Senators Grassley and Warner, and will respond promptly and directly to them. We appreciate their concerns regarding this issue."
In a separate statement to FCW, Grassley said he wanted the issue addressed and resolved. "When I met with then-nominee and now Secretary Carter in February, he talked about the need to cut wasteful spending," the statement said. "Following up on that commitment, I'd like a full explanation as to why a very senior executive supposedly has been banished to an 8-by-10 cubbyhole where he has no real title, no budget, no staff, and nothing to do while drawing a big paycheck."
Hawkins plans to step down as DISA director by the end of the year. Sones said he hopes Hawkins' departure will help bring a resolution to the former comptroller's case, if it is not already resolved by then.
"I was at probably the top of my game when this happened and I hope to gain my credibility and my career back," Sones said, adding that he wants to be fully reinstated as comptroller.
Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.
Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.
Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.