On July 30, whistleblowers, advocates, and government officials celebrated National Whistleblower Day. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) joined with them in recognizing the holiday, sending an internal memo to all of its civil service and contractor employees.
The memo begins with an account of the history behind National Whistleblower Day, concluding, “From that historic day, courageous men and women have answered the call of our Founders by exposing crime, fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in government operations. For that sacrifice, all whistleblowers deserve our protection, admiration, and appreciation.”
The memo next addresses the added importance of whistleblowers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It states, “while whistleblowers continue to be essential to our search for truth in government operations and necessary to safeguard the NASA workforce, the era of COVID-19 has imbued this moment with special significance and unique challenges.”
The memo ends with a call to “be safe and please join me in celebrating National Whistleblower Appreciation Day!”
The memo, from Cedric D. Campbell, the NASA Whistleblower Protection Whistleblower Protection Coordination Act established the position of NASA Whistleblower Protection Coordinator, an amendment to the Inspector General Act passed in 2018. According to the NASA Office of Inspector General, “the Whistleblower Protection Coordinator carries out a number of key functions:
- Educating NASA employees and managers about prohibitions on retaliation for protected disclosures;
- Educating NASA employees who have made or are contemplating making a protected disclosure about the rights and remedies available to them;
- Ensuring that the OIG is promptly and thoroughly reviewing complaints that it receives and communicating effectively with whistleblowers throughout the process; and
- Coordinating with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, Counsel of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, Congress, the Agency, other agencies, and non-governmental organizations on relevant matters regarding the implementation and administration of whistleblower protection laws, rules, and regulations.”
As federal employees, NASA employees are covered by the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA). Originally passed in 1978, and amended in 1989, 1994, and 2012, the WPA set procedures for federal whistleblower disclosures and established anti-retaliation protections for federal whistleblowers. However, overall, federal whistleblower laws like the WPA are not as strong as those protecting most corporate whistleblowers. They lack incentive awards, and access to federal court jury trials is almost impossible.