"...do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

"For the good of the Air Force, for the good of the armed services and for the good of our country, I urge you to reject convention and careerism..."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Maxwell AFB, April 21, 2008

"You will need to challenge conventional wisdom and call things like you see them to subordinates and superiors alike."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, United States Air Force Academy, March 4, 2011

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Perception of Whistle Blowing or Reality?

As most everybody knows now, a couple of F-22 pilots have gone public with their concerns over the stealth fighter's elusive ability to produce oxygen related problems for those who fly it.  They have been deemed whistle blowers.  But are they really?  I'm skeptical.

First, before their episode on 60 Minutes, several media sources reported on the upcoming episode while explaining that both pilots were talking to the media without permission from the Air Force.  Why would any media source include that tidbit?  If the Air Force didn't want them to speak out, why stoke the fire?  That is, of course, assuming there was fire to be found.  There wasn't.  There were no new revelations.  The jet has issues.  We already knew that.  Some pilots don't want to fly it.  That's perhaps new, but is that trinket of information worthy of going on 60 Minutes?  I don't think so.  These guys aren't whistle blowers, they didn't add anything substantially new to the public debate.  Or so it seems to me.

When I first saw the reports of the upcoming 60 Minutes episode, my initial suspicion was that this wasn't going to be a case of whistle blowing, and that the Air Force probably did in some way give these two permission to tell their "story" to the media.  Why?  Because it highlights a problem with an aircraft, and likely has some political or monetary benefits to highlighting issues with the service's poster child jet.  Beyond that, with all the repetitive throwing around of the term "whistle blower," I couldn't help but think about the recent GAO report that highlighted just how horrible the Air Force deals with whistle blower complaints.  This would be an easy opportunity for the service to look like it has improved, while at the same time pushing for some unknown agenda dealing with the F-22.  I figured nothing would happen to these pilots.  Maybe I'm just a cynic.

And then I saw this article just a couple days after the interview on CBS, F-22 Pilots To Get Whistle- Blower Protection.  Not only did the Air Force not punish them, but it went out of its way to make it known that it wasn't going to punish them.  So the media plays up the fact that they didn't have Air Force permission to speak on 60 Minutes, before the episode.  The episode itself doesn't say anything earth shattering, and doesn't add anything of real substance to the discussion.  Then after the episode, the Air Force makes sure everybody knows that they are "whistle blowers" and the Air Force will not punish them, in accordance with the law.

In my opinion, these F-22 pilots have found a new job working for Public Affairs.  They're not whistle blowers.  For a good discussion of what real a whistle blower does and endures, listen to Jesselyn Radack's presentation.

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