Pentagon whistleblower Franz Gayl, calling on Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to demonstrate leadership by ending the retaliation against this pivotal truth-teller whose disclosures resulted in American troops' lives being saved. Gayl exposed the Marine Corps bureaucratic delay in shipping lifesaving equipment to soldiers in Iraq – including Mine Resistant Ambush Vehicles (MRAPs) and nonlethal crowd dispersers.Over the past several months, GAP supporters have rallied behind
Several supporters went a step further, challenging Sec. Panetta to recognize this unsung hero and honor Gayl for his courage. Below is one example:
When we send our troops into harm's way, we have an obligation to provide the best protections available for them. Mr. Gayl did what was right in doing that. We owe him our gratitude and promotion, honor and an apology for the treatment his courage generated at our hands. Do what is right this time, reinstate Mr. Gayl's security clearance and all else he rightfully earned.
Making reference to the one-quarter of combat deaths in Iraq that could have been prevented with timely shipment of MRAPs, another supporter wrote:
To help you decide this issue, ask the opinion of parents whose sons' and daughters' lives were saved by the MRAPs......and then ask the opinions of parents whose sons and daughters died in vehicles lacking the MRAP protection that Franz Gayl selflessly called for. Mr. Gayl deserves to be judged by that jury.
Another supporter captured Gayl's role as the "last line of defense" when all other mechanisms failed to provide our troops adequate protections:
As a matter of policy, America doesn't send our troops into harms way so ill-equipped that many are maimed or die needlessly. That dishonors their courage, devalues their sacrifice, and undermines their morale. The up-armored vehicles saved lives, decreased the severity and frequency of injuries, and improved morale.
When quality assurance, audit, and ombudsman programs fail to detect and correct problems with an organization's polices, priorities, or allocation of resources, the last line of defense is the whistleblower. Franz Gayl should be given a medal, not the bureaucratic shuffle. Please act in the finest tradition of visionary, strong, and courageous leaders and right this wrong.
Two former DoD employees addressed the culture of fear and "turning a blind eye" within the agency.
Mr Gayl's courage and sense of what is right should be rewarded instead of punished. Having worked for the DOD for many years, I have witnessed first hand the retaliatory actions against people doing the right thing when the government wants an issue swept under the rug. Mr Panetta, now is the time for you to have courage and a sense of what is right: restore Mr Gayl's security clearance and honor him for saving the lives of his fellow Marines."
I was an auditor for the DoD many years ago. I was in the fast track, received letters of appreciation and commendation. I left my position, not because I did not like the work, but because I did not have the stomach for lack of corrective actions or the squashing of the reports due to congressional politics. Our country needs more people of principal in government. If you agree, please have this case reviewed and read the report, then do the right thing, not the political "remedy".
High-profile whistleblowers also lent their voices on behalf of Gayl, too. Prominent NSA whistleblower (and recipient of the 2011 Ridenhour Truth Teller Award) Thomas Drake expressed outright disgust with the Pentagon's treatment of Gayl:
Unconscionable for the DoD to treat a whistleblower who saved American military lives in such an egregious and extremely unjust manner.
And Robert MacLean, recipient of the Public Servant Award at this year's Washington Whistleblower Assembly
This is a disgrace. Major Gayl has dedicated his whole life to the Marine Corps. He wanted to save the lives of his fellow Marines and any other American fighter...
This outpouring of public support is truly moving. But why wouldn't Gayl's story prompt such? Let's (again) look at the straightforward facts:
Gayl reported what he observed – the needless deaths and maiming of soldiers and civilians while already-purchased, ready-to-ship vehicles that would prevent those casualties were gathering dust in warehouses. When his warnings were repeatedly stonewalled within his chain of command, he engaged in protected activity under the Whistleblower Protection Act by disclosing unclassified information to the media about the delayed shipment of MRAPs – an act that prompted the Marine Corps to take corrective action and send the necessary equipment.
In June, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates actually thanked the media for alerting him to the problem, and paved the way for his successor to take action on Gayl's behalf, stating that the subsequent deployment of MRAPs saved the lives of "thousands" of American troops.
Despite official vindication, due to the vacuum of protections for federal whistleblowers, Gayl has been subject to a litany of pretextual investigations and retaliation – including removal of his job duties, denial of further training, security clearance suspension and most recently an attempt to suspend Mr. Gayl indefinitely without pay – intended to have a chilling affect on persons of conscious who place marine safety before Pentagon red tape.
Offering temporary reprieve, new leadership at the government offices tasked with investigating and adjudicating whistleblower claims have employed dormant tools to halt the latest attack on Gayl. Last week the Merit Systems Protection Board granted a stay request from the Office of Special Counsel that prevents (for 45 days while the OSC conducts its own investigation) the Pentagon from indefinitely suspending Gayl without pay, which would have forced him out of government.
Secretary Panetta is poised to turn the page on the embarrassing events surrounding Gayl's whistleblowing. He should begin by ordering reinstatement of Gayl's security clearance.
Shanna Devine is Legislative Campaign Coordinator for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.