Monday, May 24, 2010

Whistle-Blower in 'Kafkaesque Nightmare' After Push for GI Safety

Whistle-Blower in 'Kafkaesque Nightmare' After Push for GI Safety
Sharon Weinberger
AOL News
May 24, 2010

Several years ago, Franz Gayl began began pushing the Marine Corps to field urgently needed protective equipment to troops in Iraq. He thought he was just doing his job.

Instead, Gayl, a civilian scientist employed by the Marine Corps, says he has been stripped of his professional responsibilities, denied educational opportunities typically available to federal workers and subjected to a criminal probe he says was instigated as part of the professional retaliation against him.

Franz Gayl / AP
Franz Gayl is pictured in 2006, when he was a civilian science adviser in Iraq.
Tom Devine, the legal director of the nonprofit Government Accountability Project, a Washington-based organization that represents federal whistle-blowers, including Gayl, says that despite legislation that is supposed to prevent retaliation, in reality, people like Gayl face a "Kafkaesque nightmare."

At the center of Gayl's original complaint was what he saw as the mishandling of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle, a replacement for thin-skinned Humvees that proved dangerously vulnerable to improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. In the early days of the Iraq war, those homemade bombers quickly became the leading killer of U.S. and coalition forces.

An urgent call for the MRAPs was signed off on in February 2005, around the time when deaths from the roadside bombs were spiking. But it took more than 16 months for the Marine Corps to actually begin the process of buying and fielding the new equipment.

When the Marine Corps officials in charge of buying equipment didn't seem to be acting fast enough, Gayl made his case for better equipment through reports.

Gayl's complaints reached Capitol Hill staffers, eventually leading to congressional inquiries and an inspector general investigation of the matter. In 2007, he filed for formal whistle-blower protection.

Since that time, Gayl said, he has faced reprisals. He said he has been removed from dealing with critical technology matters, like MRAPs, and that there was an investigation into information he provided to Congress. Gayl has held on to his job, but his work situation has gone from bad to worse, he says.

Most recently, the Marine Corps denied him what would normally be a routine request -- permission to attend a prestigious graduate studies program. He was also stripped of his formal responsibilities as the Marine Corps science and technology adviser, the job he was hired to do in 2002, after retiring from active duty with the service...

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