Contractors who do work for the federal government will be under increased scrutiny – and whistleblower protection – thanks to a set of amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (S. 3254) recently approved by the Senate.
OMB Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group which keeps an eye on Office of Management and Budget activities, says the amendments will bring greater transparency and accountability to federal contracting by:
- Strengthening whistleblower protections for federal contractors and grantees, ensuring that employees of contractors and grantees cannot be fired or punished for reporting misconduct, modeled after the protections pioneered in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This amendment was sponsored by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO).
- Requiring the Defense Department to publish its "revolving door" database of senior department officials who seek employment with defense contractors. This was sponsored by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
- Requiring the Defense Department to conduct an annual study on defense contracting fraud, including an assessment of its business with contractors previously penalized for fraud against the government and recommendations for reform. This was sponsored by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Joe Manchin (D-WV).
“Notably, the McCaskill amendment will apply to recipients of federal funds government-wide, not just Defense Department contractors,” according to a statement by OMB Watch.
The Senate's vote to strengthen whistleblower protections for federal contractors and grantees comes not long after President Obama signed a law to upgrade protections for federal employees.
“Whistleblowers are taxpayers’ best defense against waste, fraud, and abuse,” said OMB Watch “Encouraging contractor whistleblowers to come forward is a critical way to rein in wasteful spending, particularly given the billions of taxpayer dollars spent on contracts and grants every year.”