Whistleblower Exposes Safety Concerns At Aberdeen Proving Ground

OSC sent a detailed report to the president following an investigation prompted by allegations of mismanagement at the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground…

The Office of Special Counsel transmitted a letter Tuesday to the President detailing findings and recommendations regarding a whistleblower investigation conducted by the U.S. Army into allegations that officials at Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), Department of Law Enforcement (DLES), were engaged in gross mismanagement and activities that resulted in a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety. APG is the Army’s oldest active research, development, testing and training facility for military equipment and weapons.

The whistleblower alleged that a lead dispatcher with APG’s DLES Communication Center, in Aberdeen, Md., violated security procedures and regulations by admitting individuals to highly sensitive areas of APG solely on voice recognition and that he instructed other employees to admit individuals on voice recognition. The whistleblower also alleged that the dispatcher frequently turned off the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) printer in the Communication Center preventing the facility from receiving information on potential security threats and criminal activity from law enforcement agencies and the Department of Homeland Security. Finally, the whistleblower alleged that on several occasions the dispatcher made violent and threatening statements to the whistleblower and other employees in the workplace.

The Army’s investigation partially substantiated the whistleblower’s allegations finding that the dispatcher failed to follow the regulations for admitting individuals and was in violation of an APG Regulation and standard operating procedure. The investigation showed that other employees also did not follow the proper procedures. Finally, the investigation revealed that there were significant concerns with the dispatcher’s behavior prior to OSC’s referral, but that due to this investigation, additional information was discovered which expedited his suspension.

A number of corrective measures were taken by APG in response to the investigation, including refresher training on access procedures for protected areas, emphasizing the importance of following the proper verification procedures requiring dispatchers to consult the access book, and training on the proper operation of the NCIC printer and a sign posted reminding staff to check the status of the printer. The dispatcher was suspended for 30 days without pay, ordered to attend counseling, and was reassigned to a different squad. All employees were required to attend training on the consideration of others and the prevention of sexual harassment.

APG also made significant management changes. The director, northeast region, installation management activity, instructed APG’s new garrison commander to counsel the director, law enforcement and security, and the DLES operating division chief to ensure that DLES personnel understand and comply with applicable regulations and SOPs and that the environment is free from harassment and hostility. Finally, APG is undertaking a more comprehensive reorganization and plans to hire a new civilian supervisor and convert the position of chief, DLES operations division from a military to a civilian position. The supervisor and DLES operating division chief in place during this investigation were stripped of their responsibilities and under the reorganization will hold non-supervisory positions.

OSC determined that the agency’s report contains all the information required by statute and the agency’s findings are reasonable. Special Counsel Scott Bloch said, “I’m proud of the whistleblower that came forward because of their public safety concerns at APG, and in the interest of our nation’s security.”

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47