Military and defense spending in our country, while it may be necessary, consumes a lot of taxpayer money. The Pentagon’s fiscal year 2016 budget request for general defense operations amounts to $582.7 billion, including $71.4 billion earmarked for research and development. Just for perspective, the R-and-D figure alone is larger than the total military budget of many developed nations, such as Germany, the United Kingdom, and France. We spend more on defense than any other country in the world—between three and four times what China, our nearest competitor budget-wise, spends.
Unfortunately, much money is sometimes wasted, with situations like $640 toilet seats and a $2.7 billion air surveillance balloon that never worked. But waste isn’t the half of it. Billions upon billions disappear every year due to fraud. That means our tax money is lining the pockets of crooks instead of, say, protecting our personnel in uniform.
Remember the body armor that didn’t safeguard soldiers who were doing battle?
Some sources believe that as much as $8.5 trillion since 1996 is “unaccounted for.” While all of that money did not necessarily disappear due to fraud, it certainly seems likely that a fair amount of it did. Trillions of dollars is a lot of “misplaced” money over the last twenty years. It boggles the mind.
Why Is There So Much Fraud?
Some believe that the outsourcing of our country’s defense to contractors and private corporations shares some of the blame. Did you realize that Iraq was the most privatized U.S. war we ever fought? It’s sobering to know that, as of 2008, we had 152,275 soldiers on the ground in Iraq—and 155,826 contractors. That’s right—we had, at that point, more contractors than soldiers in Iraq.
Outsourcing duties to private contractors is not necessarily bad. Doing so enables the United States to enlarge its fighting forces and supply lines quickly and nimbly. However, as with any situation, the more parties you have involved, the more the possibilities for fraud increase. That’s why we need whistleblowers.
What Can I Do About Defense Contractor Fraud?
Do you work as a contractor for the military or in the area of defense? If you do, and you believe you have information about fraudulent activity, you could become a whistleblower. You would be protected under a variety of laws if your information establishes the existence of certain situations:
- Violations of laws, regulations, or rules
- Large-scale wasting or misappropriation of funds
- Mismanagement that creates a substantial risk (often called gross mismanagement)
- The abuse of authority by one or more persons
- Public health or public safety dangers which are specific and extensive.
How Are Whistleblowers Protected?
There are substantial federal protections that apply to all government whistleblowers, but defense contractor whistleblowers also possess additional, specialized protections under the law.
Under the general federal whistleblower laws, any citizen can sue individuals or companies that commit fraud as defined by the False Claims Act (FCA). You might know the FCA as the Whistleblower Act or the Lincoln Law. Under the FCA you can bring a qui tam suit, meaning that you can bring a case on behalf of the government.
The FCA provides protections to whistleblowers, preventing certain actions by employers. In some cases, you can receive relief in the form of double back pay, along with reinstatement and compensation for your legal costs and fees.
The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 fortified some aspects of whistleblowing, along with your right to make a protected disclosure, which shields you legally from particular reprisals when you provide details of an illegal act or fraudulent activity. You can also report wrongdoing anonymously, but doing so carries some risks. Reporting anonymously means that, in some cases:
- It may not be possible to investigate your allegations.
- If an investigation occurs, someone may still figure out who did the reporting.
- You might be legally compelled to disclose your identity.
Specialized Defense Contractor Safeguards
With regard to the protections that are available for defense and military contract whistleblowers in particular, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (NDAA) comes into play. It was created specifically to guard defense contractor employees who blow the whistle. The NDAA permanently shields:
- All employees who work for Department of Defense contractors who become whistleblowers
- All employees who work for Department of Defense subcontractors who become whistleblowers
- All Department of Defense grant recipients who become whistleblowers.
The NDAA also shields any whistleblower working on contracts or grants in the non-intelligence community. While this provision is not permanent, it is possible it will be made permanent.
In cases where relief is needed because of reprisals, under the NDAA, no upper limit for monetary caps exists for compensatory damages.
Working with whistleblowers nationally to shed light on fraudulent practices.
If you think you have the facts needed to bring a whistleblower case, the experienced whistleblower attorneys at the Louthian Law Firm can review your case and help you file the appropriate disclosure statement. Under some circumstances, the government will intervene, or join in your lawsuit.
Your chances of succeeding are greater if your whistleblower claim is substantive, clear, and to the point. Because of this, meeting with a qualified whistleblower attorney can increase your chances of winning. The Louthian Law Firm can help you form your claim so that the government will be more inclined to intervene in your case; government intervention can sometimes increase the chances of recovering reward money. Even if the government decides not to intervene, it could still be a good idea to pursue your case without government involvement. Our strong support system can assist you through every step of the process.
For a free, confidential evaluation of your case, call the Louthian Law Firm today at 1-803-454-1200 or, if you prefer, you can fill out our online contact form.