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 U.S. Office of Special Counsel
 1730 M Street, N.W., Suite 218
 Washington, D.C. 20036-4505



     WASHINGTON — The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) today transmitted to President Bush and the Congress an investigative report substantiating a whistleblower’s allegations that unqualified welders at the Department of the Navy, Naval Air Depot (NADEP), North Island (NI), California, had improperly welded catapult hydraulic piping systems on the Navy aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk.

     The aircraft carrier’s catapults are used to launch aircraft from the deck of the ship. While the Navy found that it was unlikely that the defective welds in the catapults would suffer a catastrophic failure during operations, it did not rule out the possibility of such a failure. Catastrophic failure of the welds could result in loss of aircraft and possible injury or loss of life.

     The defective welds discovered on the USS Kitty Hawk were similar to those found on five other aircraft carriers during a prior investigation conducted in February 2003, in response to similar allegations disclosed by the same whistleblower, Kristin Shott, to OSC. At that time, Navy investigators found defective welds on the catapult hydraulic piping systems of the USS Abraham Lincoln, USS Constellation, USS Nimitz, and the USS John C. Stennis, and on the jet blast deflector cylinder vent piping on the USS Carl Vinson.

     In addition to the allegations regarding the USS Kitty Hawk, Ms. Shott, a welder, also provided information to OSC alleging that NADEP NI artisans from a variety of trades perform work in an unqualified capacity. OSC concluded that there was a substantial likelihood that the information Ms. Shott had provided disclosed a substantial and specific danger to public safety, as well as violations of law, rule or regulation. By law, where OSC makes such a determination with respect to a whistleblower’s disclosures, the agency involved, in this case the Department of the Navy, is required to conduct an investigation of the disclosures and report its findings and any planned corrective and/or disciplinary actions to the Special Counsel.

     OSC transmitted Ms. Shott’s disclosures to the Secretary of the Navy, and the Office of the Naval Inspector General conducted an investigation. According to the report, Ms. Shott’s allegations regarding unqualified artisans were partially substantiated. The investigation revealed that one employee, an Integrated Electronics Systems Mechanic, had continued to solder after his soldering certification had expired. The investigators also found that the mechanic’s supervisor was aware that he was soldering with a lapsed certification. However, the investigators did not find evidence that any other artisans were performing work without the proper qualifications. The report also notes that investigators found significant deficiencies in the electronic system that NADEP NI uses for tracking employees’ certification status.

     The Department of the Navy report provides information about corrective and disciplinary actions planned or taken by the agency in response to the investigative findings. First, the report states that the Navy completed repairs to the USS Kitty Hawk’s catapults during the week of November 22, 2004. The report further states that NADEP NI management has taken disciplinary action against the mechanic and plans to pursue disciplinary action against his supervisor in the near future. The agency also described several actions NADEP NI plans to take to improve its training and recertification program.

     In transmitting the agency report to the President and the Congress, the Special Counsel is required by statute to evaluate whether it contains the necessary information and whether its findings appear reasonable. Special Counsel Scott Bloch found that the Department of the Navy report met these requirements.

     He stated, “Our brave service members depend on the integrity and safety of their equipment in ongoing operations around the world. Ms. Shott’s decision to blow the whistle averted a potential catastrophic loss of life and equipment.”

     Among its other functions, the OSC provides federal employees with a secure channel for blowing the whistle on violations of law, rule or regulation, gross mismanagement, gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety. OSC requires agencies to conduct investigations whenever it finds a substantial likelihood that a federal employee’s disclosures demonstrate the existence of one of these conditions. The agency must then report its findings as well as any corrective action taken to OSC. After OSC reviews the report to ensure that it contains the necessary information and that its findings appear reasonable, OSC transmits the report to the President and the Congress for further action, if appropriate.

     Contact OSC for a copy of the Department of the Navy report.


The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is an independent investigative and prosecutorial agency and operates as a secure channel for disclosures of whistleblower complaints. Its primary mission is to safeguard the merit system in federal employment by protecting federal employees and applicants from prohibited personnel practices, especially retaliation for whistleblowing. OSC also has jurisdiction over the Hatch Act and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. For more information please visit our web site at www.osc.gov or call 1-800-872-9855.