Probe says Air Force retaliated against Dover whistleblowers

Air Force officials at Dover Air Force Base retaliated against whistleblowers who came forward about the disposal of deceased service members' remains into a landfill, a U.S. Office of Special Council (USC) investigation found.

The report says three officials at Dover’s Port Mortuary retaliated against four whistleblowers over the course of 17 months in 2009 and 2010, and it recommends the Air Force discipline the officials.

“We expect the Air Force will now take appropriate steps to discipline the wrongdoers and deter future acts of retaliation,” special counsel Carolyn Lerner said in a statement.

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said in a statement the Air Force would be reviewing the report, which is from an independent government organization.

“The Chief [of staff Norton Schwartz] and I believe strongly there is no place for reprisal in the Air Force,” Donley said. “Reprisals against employees are unethical and illegal and counter to Air Force core values. We take violations of the law seriously and have appointed a two-star general to review the report and take appropriate action.”

The whistleblowers had alleged they were fired, placed on administrative leave and suspended for coming forward, which had prompted the USC report, delivered to the Air Force on Monday.

The whistleblowers had come forward about parts of deceased troops’ bodies being incinerated and dumped in a landfill. 

The Pentagon launched its own investigation after a report last November from the Office of Special Council found “gross mismanagement” at the mortuary.