This award recognizes a federal employee for a significant contribution to the nation in activities related to national security and international affairs (including defense, military affairs, diplomacy, foreign assistance and trade). This medal is accompanied by a $3,000 monetary award.
Position: Director, Whistleblowing and Transparency
Location: Arlington, Virginia
Achievement: Protects civilian Pentagon whistleblowers who expose wrongdoing within intelligence and defense-related activities, ensuring sources are not harassed, punished or fired.
Becoming a whistleblower is often a risky and difficult path for federal employees, and so is finding the truth and protecting those who have exposed wrongdoing from being fired, punished or harassed.
Dan Meyer, director of civilian reprisal investigations with the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Defense (DOD), took the job of protecting whistleblowers to new and often perilous territory—the Pentagon's intelligence and counterintelligence communities and the murky world of top secret or "black" programs.
In January 2004, Meyer was hired by the DOD inspector general to create a new program to protect the whistleblowing relied upon during national security and procurement fraud investigations. Since then, Meyer and his team have focused on helping federal employees in the intelligence and counterintelligence fields, especially those whose security clearances were alleged to have been revoked or changed due to their whistle-blowing. He also has handled cases of whistleblowers having their security clearance and access threatened for revealing procurement fraud.
"Dan had to fight to get jurisdiction of the black programs. There was significant pushback from management interests, but he was persistent," said Jeff Ruch, the executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a group that has worked on whistleblower rights.
Meyer has relied on aggressive interviewing and evidence collection techniques to accomplish the team's goals. He created a unique investigative protocol for reviewing security clearance decision-making as a pretext for reprisal, building on existing legal standards made available by Congress.
"Dan is pretty fearless. He has the strength to go up against others at the highest level based on the strength of his convictions," said David Ingram, a project manager at the Office of the Deputy Inspector General for Intelligence. "He has the knowledge and technical acumen to determine what is right."
With respect to the intelligence and counterintelligence communities, Meyer's team in 2010 conducted oversight of two Defense Intelligence Agency investigations and completed a full investigation into an alleged reprisal within the Department of the Navy. The team also opened a number of new reprisal cases involving intelligence and counterintelligence activities, and reviewed claims of alleged reprisals against sources reporting problems with avionics maintenance, emergency response planning and supply management.
Some of the recent cases handled by Meyer's office include:
"Dan has been a vital force in the cultural paradigm shift that breathed life into the whistleblower statutes within both the Inspector General's Office and the DOD intelligence community," said John Crane, an assistant DOD inspector general. "The protocol that Dan and his team have created is increasingly seen as the solution for how we protect Defense Department whistleblowers in the intelligence and counterintelligence fields."
Meyer's own role as a national security whistleblower made him ideally suited for the job. A former Navy line officer, Meyer was assigned onboard battleship Iowa during the tragic 1989 explosion that killed 47 American sailors. He later disclosed investigative flaws and alleged wrongdoing to the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding the Navy's subsequent investigation.
Through this experience, Meyer said he gained a keen understanding of the important role that public disclosure plays in improving government performance and accountability.
"More government transparency allows more oversight, and oversight allows for the correction of government faults," If government has more transparency, there will be fewer problems," said Meyer. "Unfortunately, supervisors and managers —and indeed senior leaders —still hold negative views of whistleblowing—the laws have changed, but peoples' hearts and minds have not followed the law."
Crane described Meyer as an individual who does not give up, "a rare individual who came to government with a sense of personal conviction."
Along with Meyer, the members of the Civilian Reprisal Investigations team include Andrew Bakaj, Roland Baltimore, Lindsay Boyd, Brian Futagaki, John Hickey, Eric Kempen and Michelle Olson.
The Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals are presented annually by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service to celebrate excellence in our federal civil service.