Keep Those Whistleblowers Coming, Says House Republican
When a quartet of State Department whistleblowers spill critical details on Benghazi before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee next week, one congressman hopes it will help light a fire under more federal workers to sound the alarm on waste, mismanagement and wrongdoing in the Obama administration.
Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) introduced his Waste Whistleblower Protection Resolution the day before Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) announced the hearing "to examine evidence that Obama Administration officials have attempted to suppress information about errors and reckless misjudgments."
Gardner called the confluence of the House GOP actions "incredible timing" that could only inspire more whistleblowers across the government to step up.
The Oversight Committee's four whistleblowers have reportedly received threats or retaliation connected to their willingness to come forward with Benghazi information. Gardner said their acts of courage can be a "strong incentive for people to come forward on issues of waste."
"These guys are coming forward with information on deaths of four Americans," he told PJM today. "I think it's going to be a pretty telling hearing."
Gardner's resolution originated in the conservative Republican Study Committee, "expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that, in order to make commonsense reforms under sequestration, Federal employees should be encouraged to suggest ways to make more sensible or more efficient budget reductions within their employing department or agency, knowing that they are protected under the whistleblower protection laws."
The resolution notes that President Obama "is implementing several tactics in his discussion of the potential effects of sequestration that needlessly alarm the American people, but there is some flexibility and discretion on how to implement the cuts, and the President must focus on more sensible reductions that can be made within departments and agencies."
Gardner called it "absolutely incredible that the president has framed this sequester in the most painful way possible."
"It's as if a third-grader were in charge of the budget and wanted to get revenge on the class," he said.
A leaked March email showed an office within the USDA being instructed to not find savings that would counter the administration's narrative on sequestration suffering.
"During the Management team conference call this morning, I asked if there was any latitude in how the sequestration cuts related to aquaculture could be managed (e.g. spread across the Region). The question was elevated to APHIS BPAS," Charles Brown, eastern regional director of USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services, wrote in a memo to staff. "The response back was, 'We have gone on record with a notification to Congress and whoever else that “APHIS would eliminate assistance to producers in 24 States in managing wildlife damage to the aquaculture industry, unless they provide funding to cover the costs.“ So, it is our opinion that however you manage that reduction, you need to make sure you are not contradicting what we said the impact would be.'”
Reports of intimidation against whistleblowers have also surfaced at the Forest Service and FAA.
Gardner hopes congressional support will help workers "turn their supervisors in who are putting politics over good public policy."
"We're trying to push this out so people know about it and understand it," he added.
The second-term Colorado Republican is also encouraging House leadership to focus an entire week on reviewing the Government Accountability Office's latest report on waste and duplicative programs, during which the head of each department named in the April report would be hauled before every applicable committee to testify.
That duplication includes 70 different teacher quality monitoring programs at the Department of Education and "countless programs within the State Department doing the same thing," the congressman said.
"People need to know what's happening -- particularly with a government more interested in causing pain to people than solving people's problems," Gardner said.