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Senators Demand Action from DOD on Reprisal against Financial Official

APRIL 28, 2015

In a bipartisan call for action, Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) have sent a letter to Department of Defense (“DOD”) Secretary Ash Carter urging the Secretary to investigate retaliatory actions that the Defense Information Systems Agency (“DISA”) took against its former Comptroller after he reported budget shortfalls and accounting practices that he believed violated federal law and regulations to the agency’s Director and other DOD officials.

DISA is the federal agency responsible for providing and maintaining communications networks for U.S. military forces, the President, Vice President, and the Secretary of Defense. Beginning in the fall of 2012, DISA’s then-Chief Financial Executive/Comptroller, Jimaye Sones, began warning agency leadership that the agency was at risk of violating the Anti-Deficiencies Act (“ADA”), which prohibits federal agencies from spending unappropriated funds or overobligating appropriated funds and requires agencies to report violations to congress.

When DISA leadership failed to act to cure the anticipated ADA violation, Mr. Sones reported it to the Department of Defense Chief Information Office. In response, the agency’s Director, Lieutenant General Ronnie Hawkins, removed Mr. Sones as the agency’s highest-ranking financial official and twice reassigned him to nonfinancial positions in which he was told to “sit on his hands.”

A subsequent internal audit of the billing processes about which Mr. Sones complained concluded that the process violated DOD Financial Management Regulations and should be discontinued. Days after Mr. Sones reported the audit’s findings to Congress DISA removed him from all budgetary and managerial authority and reassigned him to a Pentagon working group on accounting software.

The former Comptroller’s retaliation claims against DISA are currently pending investigation by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. The DOD Inspector General is also investigating the agency for the financial improprieties Mr. Sones reported.

Senators Grassley and Warner’s letter urges Secretary Carter “to have the appropriate official . . . examine all the facts bearing on Mr. Sones’s recent reassignments and to make a determination as to the appropriateness of his treatment.”

“Mr. Sones has worked for the Department of Defense for thirty years. He is a distinguished government servant whose career and reputation have been derailed because he refused to turn a blind eye to his agency’s financial mismanagement. Federal law prohibits such retaliation,” said attorney Lynne Bernabei. “We hope Senators Grassley and Warner’s letter will force the Department of Defense to take effective action to restore Mr. Sones to a position where he can protect the integrity of DISA’s finances.”

The Federal News Radio wrote about the letter sent by Senators Grassley and Warner to the Secretary of Defense, in which the senators requested an investigation into the retaliation against Mr. Sones.

Tagged with: Charles Grassley • DISA • DOD • Jimaye Sones • Lynne Bernabei