As numerous critics have pointed out over the years, OSC's inability to function effectively can be seen in the fact that the agency has only about 100 employees (and a miniscule $18 million annual budget) available to handle the thousands of whistleblower disclosures and whistleblower reprisal complaints it receives annually from a vast bureaucracy of more than 2 million workers. And the results have been depressingly predictable; as the OSC's own published annual reports indicate, only about 7 percent of federal employees who make disclosures about the kinds of problems that occurred at Y-12 end up (in yearly surveys) describing themselves as "satisfied" with the results.
Even as OSC has failed to protect whistle-blowing federal workers from the threat of reprisals, meanwhile, MSPB has chronically failed to perform its monitoring function . . . and has never performed the "OSC effectiveness" studies that congress mandated as the best way to make sure OSC does its job.
And the consequences for these failures?
At Oak Ridge -- where all-too-infrequent whistle-blowers over the years have warned about a "culture of fear" that prevents disclosures of the kinds of problems that erupted last July at Y-12 -- the frighteningly dangerous consequences of the nation's failure to protect its federal whistle-blowers can be seen with stark clarity.
The bottom line: What this nation needs most right now, if we want to prevent more 9/11s and more Y-12s in the days ahead, is for the President to direct his legal experts in the Office of Legal Counsel of the Department of Justice to conduct a top-to-bottom review of OSC and MSPB, in order to gauge the real level of their effectiveness.
And if that review shows that our system for making sure federal government failures get reported is broken, then he -- and we -- must take immediate steps to repair that system.
Not to do so is to risk our safety . . . with potential consequences too horrific to contemplate.
[Investigative journalist Tom Nugent is the author of Death at Buffalo Creek (W.W. Norton), a book about the environmental impact of coal mining. Donald R. Soeken, LCSW-C, Ph.D., is the founder of the Whistleblower Support Fund and a licensed clinical social worker who has spent more than three decades counseling federal whistle-blowers.]