Changes enhance our right to complain

Col. Bob Otto
435th Air Base Wing vice commander

***image1***Recent changes have provided additional protection to military members when lodging complaints. One of the jobs of the inspector general is to ensure Airmen are aware of and understand their rights and responsibilities regarding IG Complaints Resolution and Fraud, Waste and Abuse programs.
We believe our members have the right to file an IG complaint at any level without going through their supervisory channel and without fear or reprisal. When is your complaint a protected communication? There are two instances: when any lawful communication is made by a member of the armed forces to a member of congress or an IG which includes the IG investigative staff and when any communication of the “right stuff” is made to the “right people.” This second point needs further explanation.

When is a complaint about the “right stuff?” When a member of the armed forces makes a lawful communication with information. Or when the member reasonably believes evidences a violation of law or regulation (including laws or regulations prohibiting sexual harassment or unlawful discrimination), gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety. OK, so that’s the right stuff, but it also has to be made to the right people.

The right people are outlined in AFI 90-301, but include the following:
– Any person in the chain of command, which normally begins with the squadron commander or equivalent. However, for the purpose of the IG, it now also includes flight commanders.
– Key enlisted leaders: the chief master sergeant of the Air Force, command chief master sergeants and first sergeants; and their Air National Guard and Reserve equivalents.
– Personnel assigned to military equal opportunity, family advocacy, and Department of Defense audit, inspection, investigation or law enforcement organizations.
I always tell commanders and supervisors to encourage their people to use their chain of command – I’ve found this is often the quickest, most effective way to resolve issues. I also tell commanders and supervisors that when a member comes to them with a complaint, they should stress their right to seek assistance from the agencies or personnel listed above. We remain the world’s greatest air and space force because integrity is our bedrock. The ability to point out wrongs, without fear of reprisal, is essential to our continued success.