Today, Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner, head of the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), is calling on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct better internal safety oversight, and act upon many whistleblower safety disclosures coming from the agency. The OSC cites several "troubling safety disclosures" by a litany of FAA employees, including air traffic controllers. Additionally, the OSC's press release cites "sharply critical findings by FAA's own internal watchdog unit," and that Department of Transportation (DOT) has "failed to take timely corrective action" in addressing these whistleblower concerns.
The press release was sent out in conjunction with a letter to President Barack Obama, detailing a number of the recent safety disclosures, including improperly fitted night vision goggles, incompetent air traffic controllers in New York, insufficient oversight of Delta's maintenance program, and faulty wind instruments, among others. The FAA has one of the highest whistleblower filings per employee of any executive branch agency, and about half of the whistleblower complaints from the agency since 2007 involve aviation safety.
This is only the most recent example of Lerner's crusade for whistleblower rights since taking office last summer. Her office played a big role in publicly outing the Dover mortuary scandal – which was uncovered by whistleblower complaints to her office – and leaned on the military to reinstate the security clearance of MRAP whistleblower Franz Gayl.
GAP agrees with the OSC's concern regarding the FAA. We have had a number of FAA whistleblower clients in the past few years, alleging various safety and security concerns.
One whistleblower, Gabe Bruno, disclosed that the agency lacked a screening mechanism for mechanics who had been fraudulently certified – constituting a major national security risk. He has since formed the FAA Whistleblowers Alliance. Comprised of current and former FAA employees, the Alliance pairs their professional expertise and lessons learned as whistleblowers to advocate for enhanced safety and whistleblower measures, on behalf of the flying public.
Another FAA whistleblower, Bogdan Dzakovic, was a former leader of the counter-terrorism unit and complained that many airports were failing aviation security testing, and the agency was censoring written records of the failures and banning retesting. Following the 9/11 attacks, Dzakovic filed a formal whistleblower complaint with the OSC, which eventually ruled in favor of his allegation, stating that the FAA executed its civil aviation security mission in a manner that "was a substantial and specific danger to public safety."
We applaud the OSC, under the helm of Special Counsel Lerner, for reinforcing courageous FAA whistleblowers actions to protect the flying public.
Shanna Devine is Legislative Coordinator for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.