It is time for Congress to again become involved in examining management’s behavior at Department of Energy’s (DOE) Sandia National Laboratories located in Albuquerque, New Mexico.       

Sandia closed out 2014 being the subject of a DOE Special Inquiry titled, “Alleged Attempts by Sandia National Laboratories to Influence Congress and Federal Officials on a Contract Extension.” The inquiry determined Sandia illegally used American taxpayer funding on behalf of its oversight corporation, Lockheed-Martin, to convince congressional representatives to bypass the scheduled process and leave Lockheed in charge without bid competition. 

Sandia has now closed out 2015 with an out-of-court settlement for violating federal employment rights with its own former corporate investigator Mark Ludwig. The expenses associated with contracted lawyer fees, time and expenses racked up by Sandia’s own legal staff, lost productivity of involved employees having to prepare for and provide depositions, and the settlement itself should never have been picked up by the taxpayer. 

This is even more true considering what placed Ludwig, and senior investigator Pat O’Neill, in the crosshairs of Sandia management was their determination to conduct honest and thorough investigations. Never did their investigations result in a court ruling against Sandia or an out-of-court settlement.  

The original involvement of Congress in this saga started in 2002 when Sen. Charles GrassleyChuck GrassleyRNC head: Dems acting ‘petty’ to Gorsuch Dems delay Senate panel vote on Supreme Court nominee Grassley wants details on firm tied to controversial Trump dossier MORE (R-Iowa) came to the defense of whistleblowers including Ludwig and O’Neill for addressing problems within Sandia. Through years of involvement and sixteen letters to the Secretary of Energy and his senior staff, Grassley engaged the issues of corruption and incompetence of this national laboratory, which receives over two billion tax dollars annually plus the hundreds of millions it receives for contracted work from other government agencies. 

Addressing Grassley’s concerns, DOE’s Office of Independent Assessment and Oversight conducted an investigation and follow-up inspection of Sandia. The investigation report was scathing. The inspection documented three hundred deficiencies. 

Supported by Grassley’s whistleblower protection letter, Ludwig and O’Neill continued their professional duties.  Rather than being recognized as assets, Sandia management identified them as threats.  Multiple times Lockheed-Martin sent inquiry teams always pledging to get to the truth.  Each time, information provided by Ludwig and O’Neill was twisted and used against them.

In 2008, Ludwig and O’Neill discovered and reported a mass compromise of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) existing on the Sandia computer network. Involved were sensitive records of tens of thousands of employees, contractors, and retirees. Every one of Sandia’s 8,000 employees and 3,000 contractors had access to those records. At the insistence of Ludwig and O’Neill, the records were finally secured months later.   

In 2010, Sandia management went on full attack when effects of the compromise began to surface. O’Neill was immediately removed from corporate investigations and termination of his employment commenced. Years of torment collected its toll. Before his employment termination was complete, O’Neill died of a stress-related stroke.

Sandia management then turned its attention to Ludwig and began his employment termination process.  Then-Rep. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyOvernight Energy: Trump signs climate order | Greens vow to fight back House passes bill undoing Obama internet privacy rule The Hill’s Whip List: 30 Dems are against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee MORE’s (D-Mass.) staff entered the fight and pushed Sandia back. Ludwig remained employed, but was transferred out of Corporate Investigations. Sandia management seized all PII investigation material – never to be seen again. Due to the involvement of Markey’s staff, Sandia finally advised its employees of the compromise while severely downplaying the situation – two years after the fact. 

Still perceived as a threat by Sandia management because of his historic knowledge, Ludwig was forced to leave in 2013. The slow lawsuit process began with Sandia determined to outspend Ludwig all the way to the courtroom. That’s easy to do when the American taxpayer is footing the bill. 

My deposition was taken in October of 2015. Through that interview, and with the supporting documentation I brought, it became obvious my testimony on the stand would reveal to the jury and the media far more information about corruption and incompetence than Sandia management could downplay. As if reacting to the Jack Nicholson line “You can’t handle the truth," Sandia’s legal office immediately reversed itself, and out-of-court settlement with Mark Ludwig was made in November. 

In December, I provided Sandia President Jill Hruby a copy of my deposition and associated documentation.  At that moment, she became the owner of the problem. To date she has failed to acknowledge receipt.

Whistleblower retaliation at Sandia is standard order of business. Retaliation also occurred after the DOE IG validated concerns of two employees who reported Sandia had wrongfully claimed a problem existed with B61 spin rocket motors, which resulted in a $60-million contract for Sandia. The list goes on as part of a continuing saga in a never-ending story of corruption and cover-up at the expense of national security, the taxpayer, and truth-telling Sandia employees.  

Years ago, the corruption exposed by, and follow-up retaliation against, Los Alamos National Laboratories’ investigators resulted in Congressional investigation and a committee hearing. That same attention is now needed concerning Sandia National Laboratories. The documentation I provided to Sandia President Hruby is an excellent starting point. 

Martin is the former Protective Force chief of Operations at Sandia National Laboratories.