On November 10, Whistleblower Network News, along with a group of 145 organizations, sent a letter to Congress urging passage of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) proposed amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022. Warren’s proposed amendment, S.Amdt.3899 to S.Amdt.3867 amending H.R.4350, would update whistleblower laws and extend whistleblower protections to government contractors and grantees, groups that were not previously protected by whistleblower laws.
The amendment would enact whistleblower protections for the two groups in conjunction with the new government spending aimed to address the COVID-19 pandemic and other “domestic priorities” like infrastructure. According to the organizations’ letter, a large portion of this government spending “will go to contractors and grantees for activities by over seven million contractor employees paid with federal funds, compared to less than two million civil service workers.”
The letter is addressed to Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Chairman of the Armed Services Committee Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
“With this unprecedented surge in spending, best practice whistleblower rights are essential to minimize fraud, waste, and abuse,” the letter states. The organizations explain that when a “$700 billion stimulus spending increase” was enacted during the Obama administration, “a bi-partisan congressional coalition created the whistleblower protections that Inspectors General credited with minimizing fraud and waste.”
Warren’s proposed amendment updates the outdated protections by not only extending whistleblower protections to government contractors and grantees but also putting an end to “the international loophole for U.S. contractor whistleblowers working in foreign locations” and “the technical sovereign immunity loophole that has canceled protection for all state and local employees who blow the whistle.” In addition, the amendment protects “public health workers excluded from coverage under the Affordable Care Act,” adds “protection against blocklisting,” and bolsters “confidentiality protections for whistleblowers.”
Warren’s proposed amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022 are “essential” and would “modernize the full scope of government contractor whistleblower laws and provide protections that match global best practices.” The letter affirms that “America has never needed these rights more than right now. Protection for whistleblowers is protection for American taxpayers.”
Experts and whistleblower advocates are all too familiar with the phenomenon of waste, fraud, and abuse that can occur with federal relief programs. Enron whistleblower and WNN contributor Sherron Watkins wrote in April of this year about the American Jobs Plan and urged officials to include whistleblower protections akin to those in the Dodd-Frank Act and the False Claims Act as part of the infrastructure bill. “My experience as a whistleblower and with whistleblowers has shown me that perpetrators of fraud have little fear of detection because silencing whistleblowers with job loss and attacks on their credibility has been very effective,” Watkins wrote. “Efficient systems exist where trust exists. Whistleblowers are the best first line of defense to ensure that well laid plans garner real results and bad actors are identified and held to account.”