Federal Manager's Daily Report

The main motivating or chilling factor for employees to become—or not become—whistleblowers is whether they believe that their disclosures will make a difference, while the second most important is whether they believe they will suffer retaliation, an advocacy group has said.

The Government Accountability Project told a Senate hearing that making a disclosure to Congress carries the highest potential for making a difference, since Congress can take definitive action. In contrast, investigations by IGs, the Special Counsel and the media can create a public spotlight but such probes “generally have a limited bureaucratic spotlight and they can only make recommendations.”

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However, making disclosures to Congress also carries the highest risk of retaliation as well as the “ugliest” forms of retaliation, since there is “a direct linear relationship between the threat posed by a whistleblower and the severity of retaliation,” it said.

That is especially true, it said, where officials view Congress with hostility because it can threaten their resources.

In addition, agencies “are motivated to continue retaliation indefinitely because it creates a chilling effect that silences others,” testimony said.