A military scientific adviser whose pay and security clearances were suspended after he exposed the Marine Corps’ disinterest in building lifesaving, heavily-armored, troop carriers settled his employment dispute with the Corps on Sept. 25, after reaching an agreement that he and his attorney described as a victory.
Under the terms of the settlement, Franz Gayl, whose complaints about the Corps attracted wide attention on Capitol Hill and the support of Joseph Biden before he became Vice President, will be appointed to a Marine Corps commission assigned to develop new policies for handling Marine whistleblowers. Gayl also was assured that he can keep working for the Marines, although his clearances were not fully restored.
In a Sept. 25 statement issued through his lawyer, Gayl said “this resolution not only vindicates me but also my loyalty and dedication to the Marines, which never wavered.” The attorney, Tom Devine at the nonprofit Government Accountability Project in Washington, D.C., said that since “team members must exercise sound judgment and work with integrity,” the commission appointment affirms that Gayl possesses those qualities.
It is unprecedented for a whistleblower to be appointed to help a government agency develop policy for whistleblower rights, according to Devine, who has worked with government whistleblowers since 1979.
The dispute was resolved with the help of of the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency that protects government whistleblowers and initially intervened to block the Marine Corps’ decision to cut off Gayl’s pay in 2011. Nick Schwellenbach, a spokesperson for the office, called the two and a half year mediation the most complex undertaken by the Office under its current head, Carolyn Lerner.
In a prepared statement, Lerner, who Obama appointed to the post, commended both sides for reaching the agreement, and said “Mr. Gayl’s experiences as a whistleblower as well as being a former uniformed Marine and current civilian employee will make him an important contributor to the new team’s work.”
Gayl incurred the wrath of the Corps after he called attention in 2007 to the Corps’ failure to act on a request by U.S. officers in Iraq for a troop carrier that would afford better protection against roadside bombs. Had such vehicles been available to troops in 2005, when they were first requested, Gayl alleged, hundreds of soldiers’ lives could have been saved.
The adverse publicity he provoked caught the attention of then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who ordered the military to rapidly build costly Mine-Resistant, Armored-Protected vehicles, commonly known as MRAPs.
Gayl was subsequently accused by the Marines of improperly placing a thumb drive into a sensitive office computer, and eventually assigned to a desk in a hallway at the Marine Corps headquarters in Quantico, Va. “He was like a man in stocks,” said Devine. “It was about ongoing personal humiliation on a daily basis, and a symbol to others who worked alongside him.”
Although a copy of the settlement was not released, one of those familiar with it said it does not require the Corps to relocate him, and his superiors can still require that he be accompanied when visiting rooms with classified materials.
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