Montano’s Whistleblowing Recognized On Capitol Hill
When millions of dollars of purchases at Los Alamos National Laboratory were called into question by Charles Montano and a fellow auditor in 2003, the governance of the lab was challenged.The investigation into procurement processes at Los Alamos National Laboratory was one of many scandals detailed in Montano’s 2015 exposé, Los Alamos: Secret Colony, Hidden Truths, a record that continues to serve as a glossary on current events.
As Montano told the story, an angry senior official refused to allow the audit to be shared with the Department of Energy in order to protect the University of California’s award fee. For his efforts, Montano got nine months of cubicle confinement and professional humiliation. And the University of California began to lose its grip on three national weapons labs.
As Montano said Wednesday in a telephone call from Washington, D.C., it was the low point of his turbulent career at Los Alamos. Having tried to protect the interest of tax payers, he hated to be the one who was wasting their money by not having any work to do.
On Tuesday, Montano was given an award by the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability, a national network of organizations devoted to issues of nuclear weapons and nuclear waste. He was recognized for his lifetime achievement as a whistleblower at LANL, where he worked for 32 years and retired in 2010, when his long-standing complaint of whistleblower retaliation was settled. During his embattled career he stood up to withering retaliation, while revealing business practice scandals at the lab, fighting for workers’ rights and uncovering pay discrepancies for female workers.
At a ceremony in the Senate Hart Building, Montano, along with Sen. Diane Feinstein, (D-Calif) and Rep. Adam Smith, (D-WA), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, also were honored for their efforts to hold the nuclear weapons military-industrial complex accountable.
Feinstein was recognized for her efforts to constrain the new long range stand-off cruise missile nuclear warhead by proposing legislation that would withhold funding from next year’s budget until mission need questions are answered.
She contributed an introduction to a Ploughshares Fund report on “Ghosts of the Cold War: Rethinking the Need for a New Cruise Missile:” “Senior U.S. defense officials have begun to tout this weapon as having a role beyond deterrence,’” she wrote. “Instead of devoting our resources to a new powerful nuclear weapon, the next administration would be wise to follow one of the main conclusions of the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review and reduce the role of our nuclear arsenal by developing advanced conventional capabilities.”
On Wednesday, Feinstein tweeted, “It was an honor to speak to Alliance for Nuclear Accountability. Let’s do all we can to end
“Nothing could mean more to me from any other group,” Montano said. “These are people who are not paid for trying to do the right thing, dealing with issues of nuclear weapons and contamination of sites. They are my kind of people, doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.”
Jay Coghlan, director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico and president of the ANA Board of Directors, said Montano’s award was a tribute to his tireless efforts to expose fraud, waste and abuse and standing up against whistleblower retaliation. “We so value his courageous stance and he’s been doing it over decades,” Coghlan said in a call between lobbying visits in Washington Wednesday. “Whistleblowers are invaluable. We need to nurture them, not retaliate against them, and to listen carefully to the truth they speak to power.”