It’s been a long time coming, but Congress has finally approved legislation to strengthen protections for federal
With the Senate's bipartisan voice vote Tuesday, the measure, which advocates have been pushing for more than a decade,
goes to President Obama for his signature. The legislation is designed to protect employees who expose government wrongdoing against retaliation by supervisors.
●“Overturn court decisions that narrowed
protections for government whistleblowers.”
●“Give whistleblower protections to
employees who are not currently covered, including Transportation Security Administration officers.”
●“Restore the Office of Special Counsel’s
ability to seek disciplinary actions against supervisors who
●“Hold agencies accountable for retaliatory
investigations.”Whistleblower advocates hailed congressional
approval of the legislation.
“The WPEA closes many loopholes and upgrades
protections for federal workers who blow the whistle on waste, fraud, abuse and illegality,” said Angela Canterbury, director of public policy for the Project On Government
“We cannot thank longtime whistleblower and
federal worker champion Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) enough for his tireless efforts. He is retiring after many years of service and the WPEA certainly will be remembered as one of his most admirable
legacies.”Akaka said it is important to “protect public servant whistleblowers who risk their careers to disclose waste, fraud and
abuse. They make the federal government more effective and save taxpayers money.”With the Senate’s action, “free speech rights for
government employees never have been stronger,” said Tom Devine, legal director of the Government
Accountability Project. But Devine added that the legislation is
not all that advocates wanted.
“It would be dishonest to say our work is
done, however, or to deny that government whistleblower rights are still second class compared to those in the private sector,” he said. “House Republicans blocked two cornerstones of the
legislation: jury trials to enforce newly-enacted protections, and extension of free speech rights to national security workers making disclosures within agency channels.”
After Congress did not include whistleblower protections for national security and intelligence employees, Obama issued a Presidential Policy Directive prohibiting retaliation against them for exposing
waste, fraud and abuse.
A coalition of labor and public interest
organizations is using the possibility of steep federal budget cuts to urge Congress to lower the cap on compensation for federal contractors working for non-defense agencies.
The coalition’s Nov. 13 letter to Capitol Hill is similar to one
sent last month regarding Pentagon contractors. In the current letter to the top Democrats and Republicans on the Senate and House Appropriations subcommittees on financial services and general
government, the organizations said “with budget cuts and sequestration looming, it is fiscally irresponsible to allow
private contractors to charge escalating and exorbitant rates to the government.”