Grassley unsatisfied with DOD response to ex-comptroller case

Wikimedia image: Defense Information Systems Agency (logo).

As far as Sen. Charles Grassley is concerned, the case of a former Defense Information Systems Agency comptroller who has alleged agency retaliation is far from over.                               

The Iowa Republican and the Pentagon have traded letters on the case of Jimaye Sones, who has alleged that DISA demoted him after he reported suspect accounting practices. Grassley said a May 15 missive from Stephen Hedger, the principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense, leaves questions unanswered.

“The Defense Department’s response disregards any mistreatment of Mr. Sones, and that doesn't match the facts that I have at this point,” Grassley said in a statement to FCW. “I'll continue to press for answers from the Defense Department.”

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 DOD CIO's office, he alleged, DISA Director Lt. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins told him to “sit on your hands” as he was reassigned to lower positions within the agency. DISA spokeswoman Cindy Your declined to comment for FCW’s initial coverage of Sones’ allegations and could not be reached for comment for this story.

Grassley has had a central role from early on in the dispute between Sones and DISA. Sones has said that within days of reporting an alleged violation of the DOD Financial Management Regulation to a member of Grassley's staff, Sones was reassigned to a Pentagon working group on accounting software.

But Hedger says the FMR violation never took place. Reviews undertaken by the DOD deputy comptroller and the vice director of the Defense Logistics Agency have concluded that the “accrued billing process” in question did not violate the FMR “and in fact is an improvement over the previous practice,” said Hedger’s letter to Grassley.

The conclusion that the FMR had been violated came from a report issued by the DISA deputy inspector general in April 2014, when Sones was DISA’s acting IG. A subsequent DOD IG report found that though Sones recused himself from the audit, his continued involvement in the process raised questions about the audit’s independence.

Hedger said that a final agency decision issued as part of the Equal Employment Opportunity process “found no evidence that any discriminatory adverse actions were taken against Mr. Sones” and that the former comptroller “has not been reassigned to positions of decreasing responsibility.”

In a statement to FCW, Sones’ legal team called Hedger’s letter “ill-informed and misleading on a number of fronts, including its suggestion that there is no evidence to support Mr. Sones’ retaliation claims. Mr. Sones’ claims that DISA retaliated against him for reporting [Anti-Deficiency Act] violations were never the subject of any EEO investigation.” The DOD IG and Office of Special Counsel continue to investigate Sones’ claims of retaliation, the statement said.

Hawkins plans to retire as DISA director sometime this summer. Sones has said he hopes Hawkins’ departure will lead to a resolution in his case, and that he hopes to be fully reinstated as comptroller.

About the Author

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.


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