National Defense Contractors’ Employees Now Have a Whistle

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The 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), effective July 1, 2013, now offers employees of subcontractors with defense contracts the protection of the federal whistleblowing laws. Before the new law, subcontractors could only take their complaints of fraud or government waste to their bosses and not to a government office.

Enhancing whistleblower protection for subcontractor employees

There are significant changes in Section 844 of the 2013 NDAA that affect how subcontractor employees blow their whistles:

  • Subcontractors and employers must notify employees in writing of the new whistleblower provisions.
  • Disclosures protected under law now include abuse of authority complaints. This refers to arbitrary exercise of authority that is inconsistent with the defense department's mission.
  • Whistleblowers may now make disclosures to a member of Congress, an inspector general, a government accountability office, a court or grand jury, an official of the Department of Justice (DOJ), or any other management official possessing the power to investigate, uncover or address misconduct.

With additional channels now open to receive complaints of governmental misconduct, the defense department investigator general’s office has increased its staff to properly handle additional complaints.

Limitations of changes

The new provisions are not retroactive. Defense contracts signed and task orders added before July 1, 2013 are not bound by the changes in the law.

The new law in effect

When employees of a defense subcontractor witness the destruction of quantities of usable equipment, they may want to stop the waste and report the violations. Previously, such employees could only make a complaint to their superiors. Under the new provisions effective July 1, 2013, the employees can file a formal complaint to any inspector general, member of Congress, DOJ official or any other party listed in the new section.

The new whistleblower provisions of the NDAA still need to be implemented by defense subcontractors.