NASA OIG Whistleblower Protection
A Message from the NASA Administrator
NASA Administrator
NASA Administrator
Jim Bridenstine

Through your hard work, creativity and integrity, NASA is recognized as the best place to work in the federal government. Every employee and organization plays a role in this success, including the NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG). I wanted to remind everyone of the importance of the OIG in our work.

Offices of Inspector General were established across government 40 years ago to prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse, and promote economy and efficiency in agency programs and operations. The statute creating OIGs provides the office with special authorities, including direct access to the administrator, subpoena powers, independent hiring authority, and access to all agency information and data. The statute also requires OIGs to report to both their agency head and Congress, a dual-reporting relationship that ensures independence. The NASA OIG investigates allegations of criminal and administrative misconduct relating to NASA personnel and contractors and conducts audits and reviews of the agency’s programs and activities. Every NASA employee has a responsibility to cooperate with OIG investigations and audits by providing prompt and complete access to agency data, documents, and personnel.

I fully support the OIG’s efforts to help ensure NASA remains an efficient and effective organization, and I urge your continued cooperation with them.

Both NASA policy and federal law require employees who observe a crime, misconduct, or mismanagement to report it to the OIG. Employees who disclose matters to the OIG may do so freely without informing their supervisors. As a reminder, it is illegal for managers to retaliate against employees for bringing information to or cooperating with the OIG.

Finally, OIG investigators and auditors reside at NASA Headquarters and every Center. Information about how to contact the OIG can be found at: http://oig.nasa.gov/contact.htm

As always, thank you for your commitment and dedication to the NASA mission.

Ad astra,

Jim Bridenstine

Whistleblower Protection Coordinator
Cedric D. Campbell
Associate Counsel to the Inspector General (Central Region)
Houston, TX 77058
Voice: 281-244-6122
Fax: 281-244-6999
E-mail: HQ-OIG-Counsel@mail.nasa.gov
Whistleblower Rights and Protections

Whistleblowers perform an important service for the public and the NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) when they report evidence of wrongdoing. All NASA employees, contractors, subcontractors, grantees, sub-grantees, and personal services contractors are protected from retaliation for making a protected disclosure . Reports concerning wrongdoing by NASA employees or within NASA programs can always be submitted directly to the OIG Hotline.

If you have any questions about any of the information on this web page, or are concerned that you have experienced retaliation for blowing the whistle, you may contact the NASA Whistleblower Protection Coordinator for additional information. You may also consult the web site of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), or review this OSC pamphlet, Know Your Rights When Reporting Wrongs.

HOW TO MAKE A PROTECTED DISCLOSURE

It is unlawful for your employer to retaliate against you for making a "protected disclosure." A disclosure is protected if it meets two criteria:

  1. The disclosure must be based on a reasonable belief that wrongdoing has occurred. As explained in the chart below, the definition of wrongdoing varies slightly depending on your place of employment.
  2. The disclosure must also be made to a person or entity that is authorized to receive it. Employees who reasonably believe they have evidence of wrongdoing are always protected for submitting that information to the OIG Hotline or your local OIG office. However, as explained in the chart below, the other authorized audiences are different, depending on your employment status.

StatusWrongdoing DefinedAuthorized Audiences
NASA Employees
  • Violation of any law, rule or regulation;
  • Gross mismanagement;
  • Gross waste of funds;
  • Abuse of authority; and
  • Substantial and specific danger to public health or safety
  • Censorship related to scientific research, analysis, or technology (scientific integrity)
In general, employees may disclose information to anyone, including non-governmental audiences, unless the information is classified or specifically prohibited by law from release.
However, if the information is classified or specifically prohibited by law from release, it may only be shared with the OIG, OSC, or a designated agency official.
Contractors, Subcontractors, Grantees, Sub-grantees, and Personal Services Contractors
  • Gross mismanagement of a Federal contract or grant;
  • Gross waste of Federal funds,
  • Abuse of authority relating to a Federal contract or grant,
  • Substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, or
  • Violation of law, rule, or regulation related to a NASA contract (including the competition for or negotiation of a contract) or grant.
For all disclosures, classified or unclassified, an employee of a contractor or grantee is only protected if the disclosure is made to:
  1. A Member of Congress or a representative of a committee of Congress.
  2. An Inspector General.
  3. The Government Accountability Office.
  4. A NASA employee responsible for contract or grant oversight or management at the relevant agency.
  5. An authorized official of the Agency or the OIG.
  6. A court or grand jury.
  7. A management official or other employee of the contractor, subcontractor, grantee, sub-grantee; or manager of a personal services contractor who has the responsibility to investigate, discover, or address misconduct.
Disclosing Classified Information

A disclosure of waste, fraud, or abuse that includes classified information is not a protected disclosure under the whistleblower laws unless the disclosure is made in accordance with the laws and rules that govern the proper handling and transmission of classified information. For example, you are not protected for disclosing classified information to an unauthorized recipient, even if you reasonably believe the information is evidence of waste, fraud, or abuse. You can make a protected disclosure of classified information to the OIG, but the information may not be transmitted using the OIG's unclassified hotline. For more information on how to properly provide classified information to the OIG, please contact the NASA Whistleblower Protection Coordinator.

HOW TO REPORT RETALIATION OR REPRISAL FOR BLOWING THE WHISTLE

No one should ever be subject to or threatened with reprisal for coming forward with a protected disclosure. It is unlawful for any personnel action to be taken against you because of your whistleblowing. If you believe you have been retaliated against for making a protected disclosure, you may file a retaliation complaint, under the guidelines below.

Information for NASA Employees

If you are a NASA employee, you may submit a retaliation complaint to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) or to the OIG by completing the OIG reprisal questionnaire and submitting to the OIG Hotline or your local OIG office. OSC has primary jurisdiction over retaliation complaints for most federal employees, including all NASA employees. OSC has unique authorities, including the ability to seek a temporary stay of a pending personnel action, and can seek to correct a retaliatory personnel action on your behalf. If you submit your complaint to the OIG, we will review it and let you know whether it is appropriate for the OIG to investigate or whether it should be referred to OSC or elsewhere.

Allegations of reprisal regarding EEO matters generally should be addressed through the EEO process.

Information for Employees of NASA Contractors, Subcontractors, Grantees, or Sub-grantees or Personal Services Contractors

If you are an employee of a NASA contractor, subcontractor, grantee, sub-grantee, or a NASA personal services contractor, you may submit a complaint by completing the OIG reprisal questionnaire and submitting to the OIG Hotline or your local OIG office. Under 10 U.S.C. § 2409, it is illegal for an employee of a NASA contractor, subcontractor, grantee, or sub-grantee or personal services contractor to be discharged, demoted, or otherwise discriminated against for making a protected disclosure. For more information about whistleblower protections for such employees, please consult the NASA Whistleblower Protection Coordinator.

Information for Reporting Retaliatory Security Clearance Action

If you are a NASA employee, including NASA contractors, subcontractors, grantees, sub-grantees, and personal services contractors and believe an action affecting your security clearance was retaliatory, you may submit a complaint by completing the OIG reprisal questionnaire and submitting to the OIG Hotline or your local OIG office. The Presidential Policy Directive 19 (PPD-19) makes it unlawful for an agency to take any action affecting an employee's eligibility for access to classified information in reprisal for making a protected disclosure.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Whistleblower Protection Coordination Act

The Whistleblower Protection Coordination Act amended the Inspector General Act to require NASA OIG to designate an individual to serve as NASA's Whistleblower Protection Coordinator. The Whistleblower Protection Coordinator carries out a number of key functions, including:

  • Educating NASA employees and managers about prohibitions on retaliation for protected disclosures;
  • Educating NASA employees who have made or are contemplating making a protected disclosure about the rights and remedies available to them;
  • Ensuring that the OIG is promptly and thoroughly reviewing complaints that it receives, and that it is communicating effectively with whistleblowers throughout the process; and
  • Coordinating with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, Counsel of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, Congress, the Agency, other agencies, and non-governmental organizations on relevant matters regarding the implementation and administration of whistleblower protection laws, rules, and regulations.

The NASA Whistleblower Protection Coordinator cannot act as a legal representative, agent, or advocate for any individual whistleblower.

For more information, you may contact the NASA Whistleblower Protection Coordinator.

Nondisclosure Agreements

Pursuant to the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012, the following statement applies to non-disclosure policies, forms, or agreements of the federal government with current or former NASA employees, including those in effect before the Act's effective date of December 27, 2012:

"These provisions are consistent with and do not supersede, conflict with, or otherwise alter the employee obligations, rights, or liabilities created by existing statute or Executive Order relating to (1) classified information, (2) communications to Congress, (3) the reporting to an Inspector General of a violation of any law, rule, or regulation, or mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, or (4) any other whistleblower protection. The definitions, requirements, obligations, rights, sanctions, and liabilities created by controlling Executive Orders and statutory provisions are incorporated into this agreement and are controlling."

The controlling Executive Orders and statutory provisions in the event of any conflict with a non-disclosure policy, form, or agreement include, as of March 14, 2013:

  • Executive Order No. 13526 (governing classified national security information);
  • Section 7211 of Title 5, United States Code (governing disclosures to Congress);
  • Section 1034 of Title 10, United States Code as amended by the Military Whistleblower Protection Act (governing disclosure to Congress by members of the military);
  • Section 2302(b)(8) of Title 5, United States Code, as amended by the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 and the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 (governing disclosures of illegality, waste, fraud, abuse or public health or safety threats);
  • Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 (50 U.S.C. 421 et seq.) (governing disclosures that could expose confidential Government agents);
  • The statutes which protect against disclosure that may compromise the national security, including Sections 641, 793, 794, 798, and 952 of Title 18, United States Code; and
  • Section 4(b) of the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950 (50 U.S.C. 783(b)).

Whistleblower Posters

We encourage the following posters to be prominently displayed on NASA Centers and made available on the intranet. Click each poster to view.

poster image

Whistleblowing: Defines a “whistleblower” as someone who discloses information he or she reasonably believes evidences a violation of any law, rule, or regulation; gross mismanagement; gross waste of funds; an abuse of authority; a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.

poster image

Whistleblower Retaliation: Asks, “What is whistleblower retaliation?” A federal employee authorized to take, direct others to take, recommend or approve any personnel action may not take, fail to take, or threaten to take any personnel action against an employee because of protected whistleblowing. Cites an example. Defines “protected whistleblowing.”

poster image

Prohibited Personnel Practices (PPPs): Lists 14 prohibitions, including: whistleblower retaliation; discrimination for engaging in conduct unrelated to work performance, such as discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation; and hiring and promotion offenses that offend the merit system. 5 U.S.C. §§ 2302(b)(1)-(b)(13).

poster image

The Hatch Act: Permitted and Prohibited Activities for Most Federal Employees (poster): Lists permitted and prohibited activities for employees who may engage in partisan activity.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Click on a question to view the answer

Federal civilian employees have many options to disclose wrongdoing. They can:
  • tell a supervisor or someone higher up in management,
  • report the issue to their agency's Office of Inspector General (OIG),
  • file a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC).
Current and former Federal civilian employees and applicants can confidentially report information to an OIG or OSC about any of the following types of wrongdoing:
  • a violation of any law, rule, or regulation;
  • mismanagement;
  • a gross waste of funds;
  • an abuse of authority; or
  • a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.
  • Censorship related to scientific research, analysis, or technology (scientific integrity)
Yes. NASA-OIG has a hotline that allows employees to make confidential disclosures. Inspectors General are prohibited from disclosing an employee's identity without the employee's consent unless the IG determines that disclosure is unavoidable or is compelled by a court order. If you file a disclosure with OSC, your identity will not be shared outside OSC without your consent. OSC may disclose your identity only if OSC determines that it is necessary because of an imminent danger to public health or safety or an imminent violation of any criminal law.
Yes. The Whistleblower Protection Act prohibits retaliation. This means it is unlawful for agencies to take or threaten to take a personnel action against an employee because he or she disclosed wrongdoing. Personnel actions can include poor performance review, demotion, suspension, termination, or revocation or downgrade of a security clearance.
In addition, the law prohibits retaliation for:
  • filing an appeal, complaint, or grievance;
  • helping someone else file or testifying on that person's behalf;
  • cooperating with or disclosing information to OSC or an Inspector General; or
  • refusing to obey an unlawful order.
Yes. Federal law establishes that a Federal employee has the right to communicate with and provide information to the United States Congress.
If you believe that an agency has retaliated against you because of your whistleblowing, you can:
  • file a complaint with OSC, which may seek corrective action when warranted;
  • file a union grievance; or
  • if you have been subject to a significant personnel action, you can file an appeal with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MPSB) and assert whistleblower retaliation as a defense.
Pursuant to Presidential Policy Directive 19 there are special procedures with respect to retaliation in the form of revocation or downgrade of a civilian employee's security clearance. An employee can report such retaliation through the OIG Hotline.
Many forms of relief are available. They include:
  • job restoration
  • reversal of suspensions and other adverse actions;
  • back pay; and
  • reasonable and foreseeable consequential damages, such as medical costs, attorney fees, and compensatory damages. In addition, damages may be awarded for attorney fees and expenses incurred due to retaliation.
Yes. OSC may seek disciplinary action against any employee who commits a prohibited personnel practice. If an agency fails to take disciplinary action, then OSC can bring a disciplinary action case to the MSPB against the employee who committed the prohibited personnel practice. If the MSPB finds that an individual has committed a prohibited personnel practice, it can order disciplinary action, including removal, reduction in grade, debarment from Federal employment for up to 5 years, suspension, reprimand, or a fine of up to $1,000.

Yes. Pursuant to 10 USC 2409, an employee of a contractor, subcontractor, grantee, or subgrantee or personal services contractor may not be discharged, demoted, or otherwise discriminated against as a reprisal for disclosing information that is evidence of:

  1. gross mismanagement of a National Aeronautics and Space Administration contract or grant;
  2. a gross waste of Administration funds;
  3. an abuse of authority relating to an Administration contract or grant;
  4. a violation of law, rule, or regulation related to an Administration contract (including the competition for or negotiation of a contract) or grant; or
  5. a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.
An employee of a contractor, subcontractor, grantee or subgrantee who believes that he or she has been subjected to prohibited reprisal may complete the questionnaire and submit it to a local OIG office (Center) or submit a complaint via the OIG Hotline.