Whistleblower Protection:

Impediments to the Protection of Military Members

NSIAD-92-125: Published: May 27, 1992. Publicly Released: Jun 8, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) implementation of the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, which prohibits supervisors from taking retaliatory actions against service members who make certain disclosures to the DOD Inspector General (IG), a service IG, or a member of Congress.

GAO found that: (1) the act protects persons disclosing information to IG or a member of Congress, but does not protect persons making disclosures to investigative units that are not part of the IG component; (2) whistleblowers typically direct reprisal grievances to service IG, and are unaware that they must direct a reprisal grievance to DOD IG for further consideration; (3) DOD has informally adopted a reprisal investigation approach that determines the whistleblower's protection under the act, the unfavorable nature of the personnel action, the official's awareness that the whistleblower made a protected disclosure, and the possibility of the action's occurrence if the whistleblower had not made the disclosure; (4) unlike the generally more detailed and comprehensive law protecting civilian whistleblowers, the military law does not require standards of proof that reprisal occurred, corrective actions, or convincing evidence that adverse actions are not reprisals; (5) DOD IG has emphasized the importance of familiarizing service IG with the provisions, but has not told whistleblowers that they can request reviews by a service Board for Correction of Military Records and by the Secretary of Defense; and (6) a review of DOD IG and service IG whistleblower reprisal cases found that all 15 DOD IG cases were generally complete, while 8 of 35 service IG cases failed to investigate for reprisal, the connection between the adverse action and the disclosure, and threats of adverse actions.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Action would require new legislation, which was not initiated after the report was issued. Due to the changing roles of the requester, it is unlikely that further action will occur.

    Matter: Since whistleblowers who do not direct their reprisal complaints to DOD IG may not receive the complete protection of the law, Congress may wish to amend the law to ensure that even whistleblowers who make their compliant of reprisal to service IG have the law's protection.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct DOD IG to inform whistleblowers that they can request to have the matter reviewed by a Board for Correction of Military Records and then the Secretary of Defense.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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