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 U.S. Office of Special Counsel
 1730 M Street, N.W., Suite 201
 Washington, D.C. 20036-4505


(202) 653-7984               

    The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) today announced its selection of Ms. Kristin Shott, a U.S. Navy welder, as a recipient of the Special Counsel’s Public Servant Award. Ms. Shott disclosed to OSC that unqualified Navy welders had improperly performed “critical” welds on the catapult hydraulic piping systems of U.S. aircraft carriers. These hydraulic systems are used to power various control devices and motors related to aircraft carriers’ launch and recovery systems. Compounding the problem, she alleged that unqualified Navy inspectors were tasked with inspecting the welders’ work.

    Ms. Shott’s disclosures triggered an investigation by the Department of the Navy that substantiated her allegations. The investigation confirmed that Navy welders had improperly welded the catapult hydraulic piping systems onboard the four U.S. aircraft carriers, two of which are currently in the Persian Gulf and one of which is en route to the Gulf. Weld failures, although unlikely, could have resulted in the loss of aircraft and injuries during launch procedures. (See OSC press release, 3/13/03, detailing transmittal of the report.) It also found the jet blast deflector cylinder vent piping onboard a fifth carrier had been improperly welded. 

    Special Counsel Kaplan established the Special Counsel’s Public Servant Award Program in March 2001 and Ms. Shott is the fourth federal employee to receive such an award. The program was established to recognize the contributions that federal employees make to the public interest when – often at great personal risk – they make significant disclosures of violations of law, rule, or regulation; gross mismanagement; a gross waste of funds; a serious abuse of official authority; or, as was the case here, substantial danger to public health and safety. The Award is a non-monetary, and merit-based award. Its purpose is to publicly recognize the most significant contributions made by federal whistleblowers who have either filed protected disclosures with OSC or who have sought relief from OSC on the grounds that they have suffered retaliation.

    In announcing the award, Special Counsel Elaine Kaplan observed that “Kristin Shott’s decision to come forward and make these disclosures reflects the highest ideals of public service. Her efforts have averted a potential threat to military readiness and to the safety of our military personnel in the Persian Gulf. They also resulted in permanent changes that will require, among other improvements, periodic welding audits for all Naval Air Systems Command organizations. As she has graphically demonstrated, the effectiveness of our national defense depends – not only on those in the uniformed services – but also on civilian employees, like Ms. Shott, who have the courage to come forward and blow the whistle.” 

    The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is an independent federal investigative and prosecutorial agency whose basic mission is to guard against prohibited personnel practices, with special emphasis on protecting government whistleblowers. It also provides a secure channel for federal employees, such as Ms. Shott, to make protected disclosures of information.