Reinvigorating the U.S. Office of Special Counsel: Suggestions for the Next Administration

October 20, 2008

ACS is pleased to distribute an Issue Brief by Elaine Kaplan, Senior Deputy General Counsel of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), and Tim Hannapel, Assistant Counsel at NTEU. The Issue Brief, entitled Reinvigorating the U.S. Office of Special Counsel: Suggestions for the Next Administration, was featured as part of ACS's recent event, "A Fresh Start for a New Administration: Reforming Law and Justice Policies," which marked the release of a collection of proposals for the new Administration. Drawing upon their leadership experience, respectively, as Special Counsel and Deputy Special Counsel at the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) from 1998 to 2003, Ms. Kaplan and Mr. Hannapel issue a series of recommendations for revitalizing the office, which they describe as a "small and relatively unknown federal agency, with a broad mission and an unfulfilled potential." OSC is an independent investigative and prosecutorial agency whose mission "is to protect current and former federal employees, and applicants for federal employment, especially whistleblowers, from prohibited employment practices." OSC also functions as a channel for current and former federal employees who want to secure an investigation of their whistleblower disclosures. After outlining the history of OSC and describing some of the agency's current problems, the authors recommend: (1) new OSC leadership that is qualified, fair and impartial (in both fact and appearance), and can win the trust of the federal agencies that OSC investigates, as well as the federal employee and good government groups that represent whistleblowers and other complainants; (2) increased staffing and funding; (3) an education program for agencies to educate their workforce about their rights and role of OSC in protecting them; and (4) a process for resolving complaints against the Special Counsel, the head of OSC. The authors argue that the aforementioned steps would rejuvenate OSC, an office that they contend could then "be an invaluable ally to an Administration that is truly committed to reducing fraud, waste, and abuse, enforcing accountability in government, and stemming the tide of politicization that has become standard operating procedure over the last eight years."

Read the full Issue Brief here: Kaplan_Hannapel_Issue_Brief