WASHINGTON – The number of complaints filed against high ranking military and defence officials has increased over the last years, but more cases are rejected as not credible and less civil servants guilty of misconduct, according to the data of the Ministry of Defence of the researchers.
Overall, there were 803 complaints filed in the fiscal year that ended last Sept. 30, compared to 787 from the previous year. But only 144 were deemed credible and investigated by the IG, and 49 high-level officials were eventually found guilty of misconduct. Accusations against the officials is often a question of unethical behavior — such as having an inappropriate relationship — but they also have the violations of travel rules, wrongly accepting gifts, sending employees on personal errands or treating employees poorly.
The data were released Wednesday during a House Armed Services personnel subcommittee hearing. Glenn Fine, who served as the Pentagon’s inspector general, said the decline in the number of cases to be investigated, is the result of a more thorough screening of the complaints that come in. As a result, he said, about a third of the cases that are examined, are ultimately substantiated. That percentage is slightly lower than last year, but much higher than in the previous years. The rate in 2008 was only 14 percent.
Senior military leaders told the panel that they see many more so-called whistleblower complaints that may lead to investigations and stall a career, but only a small fraction of the alleged perpetrators have been convicted.
Fine told the House panel that only two whistleblower cases, charging a high official with retaliation were substantiated in 2017 financial year, compared with three in each of the previous two years. Whistleblower cases typically allege that an officer or a superior has revenge against a lower ranking service member or employee for making a kind of complaint.
According to Fine, the number of retaliation complaints filed against high officials, has increased from 145 to 165 over the past five years. But, more generally, the complaints against all department individuals jumped by almost 80 percent over the same period.
“Whistleblower retaliation has skyrocketed a result of the abuse and wrong application of the whistleblower retaliation against high-level officials. It is off the charts,” the Lt. Gen. David Quantock, the Army’s inspector general, told the committee notes that only 4 percent of the Military cases were substantiated. He said that the complaints are often made by a soldier or citizen, after they have been held accountable for misconduct or poor performance.
“The resulting claim of retaliation creates challenges for commanders who hold people accountable, and then be confronted with an inspector general whistleblower reprisal investigation,” he said.
Fine said that he is hiring a full-time whistleblower ombudsman to ensure that troops and workers understand their rights and responsibilities and to help prevent retaliation.
Lawmakers raised concerns about whether military researchers can effectively cast judgment on officers in their own service and the question is whether citizens will be required to do those jobs. They also asked if the perpetrators are treated in the services or when officers can be disciplined differently for the same offence depending on what the service to which they belong.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said she worried that the lower service members are treated more severely for offenses than officers.
“There is a phrase in the army that goes like this, ‘Different spanks for different ranks,” she said. “A lot of leaders who are the essential core of the chain of the command are not held to the same standards as the rank and file. This corrupts fairness, justice and morality.”
Fine said only a small minority of senior leaders are guilty of misconduct. He added that the IG’s office is looking for ways to help standardize studies, and also track and record cases in the same way.
The inspectors general told the commission that they are understaffed, have large backlogs, and it can often be 200-400 days to investigate and complete a case.