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CHIPS Articles: Whistleblowing: How to Report Waste, Fraud, Abuse or Misconduct

Whistleblowing: How to Report Waste, Fraud, Abuse or Misconduct
By Office of the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance (OPNAV N2/N6) - January-March 2014
In light of the Navy’s increased focus on Insider Threats and the stand-up of the Insider Threat to Cyber Security team within the Office of the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance (N2/N6), it is important to distinguish authorized “Whistleblowing activities” from those constituting an insider threat.

Whistleblowing activities are frequently misunderstood and the term is often misused resulting in confusion regarding employees’ rights and responsibilities when reporting Waste, Fraud, Abuse, or Misconduct.

It is the policy of the federal government to enable employees to disclose evidence of fraud, abuse, mismanagement, or illegal activities without fear of reprisal. Further, in accordance with the Whistleblowers Protection Act (WPA), the Military Whistleblowers Protection Act (MWPA), and Presidential Policy Directive 19, it is unlawful to restrict a federal employee or military member from making a “protected communication” (as defined below), take an unfavorable “personnel action,” or withhold a favorable personnel action against a civilian or military member in reprisal for making or preparing a protected communication.

A “Protected Communication” is any lawful communication to a member of Congress, Inspector General (IG), or other designated organization, which a person reasonably believes reports a violation of law or regulation. In addition to members of Congress and Inspectors General, protected communications can be made to a DOD audit team, inspection, or law enforcement organization; or someone in the member’s chain of command.

The Intelligence Community Inspector General (IC IG) is also authorized to investigate complaints or information concerning allegations in connection with Office of the Director of National Intelligence and/or IC intelligence programs and activities (including various elements of N2N6 and the IDC).

Essentially, protected Whistleblowing activities are the disclosure of information which the discloser reasonably believes shows evidence of a violation of law, rule, or regulation; gross mismanagement; gross waste of funds; an abuse of authority; or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety. In contrast, Insider Threat activity occurs when an insider willfully compromises or intends to compromise classified information for personal gain, to engage in illegal activities, or to harm the United States in some way.

Military, civilian and contractor personnel have a variety of resources should they wish to report a prohibited personnel practice. Bear in mind that these resources may not be appropriate to report concerns about classified activities. Therefore, consultation with an Inspector General, Staff Judge Advocate or General Counsel is recommended before making a complaint. These personnel grievance procedures include:

For military members:

  • Article 138, UCMJ; Complaints of Wrongs Against the Commanding Officer.
  • Article 1150 UCMJ; Complaints of Wrongs Against a Superior Outside your chain of command.
  • Equal Opportunity Complaint can be reported to your chain of command or EO counselor, if you think you have been sexually harassed or discriminated against.
  • Reprisal allegations should be forwarded to the DoD IG or Naval Inspector General.

For civilian Navy employees:

  • Human Resource Officer or Human Resource Service Center.
  • Merit Systems Protection Board.
  • Administrative Grievance Procedures.
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Complaint to your EO Counselor or chain of command, if you think you have been sexually harassed or discriminated against.
  • Refer reprisal allegations to the Office of Special Counsel.

For contractors:

  • Contractor Disclosure Program Management Office – (866) 429-8011
  • The links below can also assist in your understanding of Federal and DoD complaint and Whistleblowing rights and policies. In any situation, you may also consult with your Judge Advocate General or General Counsel.

    Navy IG: www.ig.navy.mil/Complaints/Complaints(AtoZ).htm
    DoDIG: www.dodig.mil/Hotline/filing_info.html; (800) 424-9098
    IC IG: www.dni.gov/index.php/about-this-site/contact-the-ig; (703) 482-1300

    In any case, Whistleblowing is not Insider Threat activity. Whistleblowing activities are protected under appropriate law, policy, and regulation and are encouraged when evidence of Waste, Fraud, Abuse, or Misconduct is made known to a service member or employee. Conversely, Insider Threat activity is specifically intended to harm the United States through the willful damage of resources or the illegal release or compromise of classified information for personal gain. Whistleblower activity is legal, appropriate, and encouraged while Insider Threat activity is illegal, inappropriate and targeted within the Navy.

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