Courtney to bring Coast Guard whistleblower as State of the Union guest

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, is bringing a Coast Guard whistleblower as his guest to President Donald Trump's State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Lt. Cmdr. Kimberly Young-McLear, who is black, is an instructor in the Electrical Engineering and Cyber Systems Section in the U.S. Coast Guard Academy's Engineering Department.

A recent report from the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General substantiated Young-McLear's claim that she faced retaliation, including low marks in her annual evaluation report, after reporting discrimination and harassment by her superiors. The report, which notes that high-level Coast Guard officials were made aware of the allegations, including the previous  head of the service, also found that the Coast Guard failed to respond to the discrimination and harassment she had experienced.

The Coast Guard has said it will work with the Department of Homeland Security to develop a plan to implement the report's recommendations.

"Our military service members and civilian employees must have the confidence that when they report workplace bullying and other forms of harassment or discrimination, they will not be subjected to retaliation. I thank Kimberly for her moral courage, integrity, and devotion to duty as a Coast Guardsman," Courtney said in a statement announcing Young-McLear as his guest.

Courtney, and his Democratic colleagues, Reps. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and Elijah Cummings of Maryland, have asked the Coast Guard for documents, reports or other records involving allegations of bullying and harassment at the academy. They characterized the first release of documents by the Coast Guard as "incomplete," and met with the head of the Coast Guard recently on the ongoing request.

A broader review by the inspector general is looking into how the academy has handled these complaints, and whether it took appropriate action in past cases.

Young-McLear's attendance Tuesday also is an example of how the 35-day partial government shutdown impacted Coast Guard members as she continued to report to work without pay, Courtney said.

Young-McLear and her team were the recipient of the 2017 Coast Guard Capt. Niels P. Thomsen Innovation Award for Cultural Change for their research into leveraging social media during the response to hurricanes Harvey and Irma. As chair of the academy's Cyber Council, she helped to develop the academy's new cyber systems major. She also developed NET21, an innovative middle school outreach program in the New London area designed to close the gap on underrepresented students in the field of cybersecurity.

j.bergman@theday.com

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