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Sen. McCaskill Requests Briefing on Admiral Accused of Whistleblower Retaliation

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Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) asked the Navy for a briefing on the case of an admiral who avoided disciplinary action despite an investigation finding that he retaliated against staff members he erroneously suspected of being whistleblowers.

In an October 26, 2015 letter to Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, McCaskill said she was disturbed to learn that Rear Admiral Brian Losey was not being “held accountable” for retaliatory actions taken against subordinates cited in a Department of Defense Inspector General report.   McCaskill’s letter followed an October 21, 2015 Washington Post article that reported the Navy’s decision not to discipline Losey for violating whistleblower protection laws and to promote him.  The article did note that the Navy issued Losey a “letter of counseling” asking him to be “thoughtful and careful” when handling such matters in the future, but not finding any wrongdoing on his part.

The Navy’s position is that none of the allegations in the IG report rose to the level of “misconduct” on Losey’s part.  Losey characterized the staff members as poor performers and asserted that he had acted within his authority as a commander.  Navy officials reviewed the IG’s findings, which recommended discipline for Losey, but concluded that Losey acted within his authority.

According to the Washington Post, Losey “was investigated five times by the Inspector General after subordinates complained that he had wrongly fired, demoted or punished them during a vengeful but fruitless hunt for the person who had anonymously reported him for a minor travel-policy infraction.”

Losey had not, in fact, violated the policy, but was furious about being reported.  This led Losey to take a series of retaliatory actions against subordinates he deemed to be disloyal or working to undermine his command.  As it turned out, none of the people that he retaliated against was the person who filed the original complaint against Losey.

Under the military’s whistleblower protection law, the Whistleblower Reprisal Protection Act, commanders or senior officials are prohibited from retaliating against anyone who has reported wrongdoing in the armed forces to the Inspector General or Congress.  Critics of the law note the higher burden of proof required of military plaintiffs compared to their civilian counterparts under other statutes.  The  Post noted that “[o]f the 1,196 whistleblower cases closed by the Defense Department during the 12 months ending March 31, only 3 percent were upheld by investigators.”

The Nay is currently in the process of promoting Losey to a two-star admiral, a position the Navy initially selected him for in 2011.  As the head of Naval Special Warfare Command, Losey is in charge of the Navy SEALS, among other special forces units, and previously commanded SEAL Team 6, the unit that conducted the raid that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden.

In her letter to Secretary Mabus, McCaskill requested that the Navy brief her staff on the Inspector General’s findings and any disciplinary actions taken as a result.  Citing her work to strengthen whistleblower protections, McCaskill said, “Failure to hold individuals accountable for taking actions against whistleblowers discourages others from coming forward, which is unacceptable.”

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