This week’s “Whistleblower Spotlight” falls on US Marine Corps civilian scientist and retired Marine Officer Franz Gayl. He is the Marine Corps insider who in 2006 sounded the alarm on the military’s failure to protect US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan with appropriate armored vehicles. While stationed in Iraq, he saw first-hand the casualties being suffered from roadside bombs by Marines in poorly protected Humvees. He pushed for their replacement with blast-resistant trucks known as Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles.
Apparently, Mr. Gayl’s concerns were ignored by his superiors. So he went to Capitol Hill and the press. He got the attention of then-Senators Christopher Bond (R-Miss.) and Joseph Biden (D-Del.), and ultimately then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates who made rushing the trucks to US troops a top priority. The delivery of the MRAP vehicles is credited with substantially reducing the number of deaths and casualties of US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
From 2007-2014, Gayl endured a reprimand, several suspensions, a criminal investigation, threats of removal for unacceptable performance, removal of duties, partial loss of his security clearance credentials, proposed demotion and salary cut-off, and other forms of harassment.
All because he was trying to protect US troops clearly in harm’s way. According to GAP, he was also “acting at the direction of America’s top field general in Iraq, who had been unable to secure delivery of the lifesaving vehicles for well over a year.”
Finally, Mr. Gayle has some redemption for his valiant quest. Last Thursday, he reached a settlement of the whistleblower retaliation claims he brought against the Marine Corps under the Whistleblower Protection Act. It was mediated by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), an independent federal agency established to protect federal whistleblowers and offer a safe channel for them to report fraud or misconduct. Under the settlement, Mr. Gayl will maintain his current position, receive an award of an undisclosed amount, and perhaps most significantly, be a member of a newly appointed team to educate Marines and civilian employees on their whistleblower rights and obligations.
GAP Legal Director Tom Devine, who has defended government whistleblowers for more than thirty years, called it “unprecedented to appoint a whistleblower to help an agency develop policy for whistleblower rights, let alone a military service.” He credited the OSC with its role in “stopping the bleeding” and “healing the wounds” in Mr. Gayle’s seven-year struggle. True to the character and purpose which drove Mr. Gayle during his whistleblower ordeal, he characterized the resolution of the matter as not only a vindication of his efforts “but also of my loyalty and dedication to the Marines, which never wavered.”
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