The Office of Special Counsel is terribly overburdened with cases: 4,000+ this year alone, a record high. Its caseload jumped 29% over the past three years while budget increases went up only 6%. The Senate Appropriations Committee “acknowledge[d] that the OSC continues to experience dramatic growth in its caseload” but it didn’t match actions to rhetoric, keeping OSC’s budget at last year’s level.
Office of Special Counsel
SALARIES AND EXPENSES
Appropriations, 2012: $18,972,000
Budget estimate, 2013: $18,692,000
Committee recommendation: $18,972,000
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel [OSC] provides a safe channel for Federal employees to report waste, fraud, abuse, and threats to public health and safety.
The OSC was first established on January 1, 1979. From 1979 until 1989, it operated as an autonomous investigative and prosecutorial arm of the Merit Systems Protection Board [MSPB]. In 1989, Congress enacted the Whistleblower Protection Act (Public Law 101-12), which made OSC an independent agency within the executive branch. In 1994, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act [USERRA] (Public Law 103-353) became law. It defined employment-related rights of persons in connection with military service, prohibited discrimination against them because of that service, and gave OSC new authority to pursue remedies for violations by Federal agencies.
The OSC continues to experience significant increases in its caseload. In fiscal year 2011, the new case intake volume surpassed 4,000 for the first time, representing an increase over record levels of cases presented to the agency in the previous fiscal year. Areas of significant growth included prohibited personnel practice complaints as well as USERRA cases, which nearly doubled in volume with the launch of a new 3-year demonstration project to help further protect veteran’s employment rights as authorized under the Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-275). Hatch Act cases and whistleblower disclosure matters continued at elevated levels in fiscal year 2011.
The Committee recommends an appropriation of $18,972,000 for the OSC. This amount is the same as the fiscal year 2012 enacted level and $280,000 above the budget request.
The Committee acknowledges that the OSC continues to experience dramatic growth in its caseload, as a result of heightened awareness of the Hatch Act, a more vigorous focus on complaints under USERRA, and actions under the Whistleblower Protection Act. The Committee commends the OSC’s efforts to prevent heightened backlogs despite the escalating caseload in fiscal year 2011. The Committee appreciates that processing cases is resource-intensive, and that the 28-percent increase in caseload growth that the OSC experienced over the previous 3 years is not expected to abate going forward, necessitating sustained funding.