tv William Werkheiser Testifies on Falsified Geological Data CSPAN December 23, 2016 4:35pm-5:49pm EST
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she buffered access to the president as he recovered from a massive stroke in 1919. for our complete american history tv schedule, go to c-span.org. u.s. geological survey deputy director testified recently on cases data manipulation at the agency between 1996 and 2014. an internal investigation on of a laboratory in lakewood, colorado confirmed the misconduct and also identified personnel and management problems. >> the subcommittee on oversight investigation will come to order. the subis to hear decades of data manipulation at the united states geological survey. under committee rule 4f, any
oral statements are limited to the ranking minority member. i ask unanimous consent that all other members opening statements be made part of the hearing record if they are submitted to the clerk by 5:00 p.m. today. hearing no objection, so ordered. i will now recognize myself for five minutes for an opening statement. today we'll be examining decades of data manipulation that occurred within the u.s. geological survey, as well as the agency's failure to take appropriate and corrective measures. usgs has been considered by many to be the gold standard of scientific integrity and reliability. that image has now been indelibly sustained or at best shaken by the revelation of deliberate decades long data manipulation. incredibly this committee has learned that the usgs had shut down the lab from the ig months
after it happened. in 2015, the department of interior scientific integrity review panel investigating this matter concluded that there was a "chronic pattern of scientific misconduct" at the laboratory in colorado. the panel also concluded that the laboratory's chemist "intentionally manipulated" data. these shocking findings have not impugned the integrity of the usgs, but the scientific underpinnings of policy decisions that may have been been taken as a result of the usgs research. i should note we aren't taking just a few fudged numbers here and there. this involves research and
personnel going back to 1996 when the data manipulation was discovered in 2008, new employees were shuffled in and yet the fraud continued tainting thousands of sample results. you might wonder how no one in usgs management noticed the junk science coming from the lab. investigators offered one explanation pointing to the con shopbs acquiescence and attentiveness of those in the laboratory and/or centers management. while long-term cost to usgs's reputation may be incalcuable, from fiscal year 2008 through 2014, effective projected represented $108 million.
this is not including an entire decade of data manipulation. we're still trying to figure out the extent of the projects that were affected and any policy decisions that were executed with falsified data. the reliability of data we provided as lawmakers across a spectrum of issues is now called into questions. usgs is likely going to assure us that it will never happen again, that new procedures are in place, manuals have been rewritten, new positions have been created is and on and on with solutions to make us just want to forget all this and get back to blind faith in federal science. however, the discussion with our witness, i want one basic question answered, why? why did this happen with all the briefings held with staff, reports, and audits written. we still did not know why this occurred. usgs told it was the lab's
lousing air-conditioning. but then said that was not it. they told us the data was changed to account for variable calibrations, and then said that wasn't it. finally, usgs offered up the excuse that it was plain incompetence. i still don't buy it. 20 years of fraud, $100 million flushed down the toilet. it shouldn't be pinned on one incompetent employee who was remarkably replaced by another incompetent employee. not to mentioned fact that most recent fall day had startling evaluations. there should be a clear explanation as to why it happened. any proposed solution is meaningless without it unfortunate coincidence our first hearing in this newly created subcommittee was on the lack of account beability of federal science and the consequences of politically
driven science. it has been destroyed through the actions of employees, motivated by ideologies and manipulated data or just garbage science. let this hearing serve as a warning, anyone who harbors thoughts of askewing scientific integrity in order to advance the agenda. we will hold accountable to those who act in such a matter or turn a blind eye. we will just point out the problems go back to 1996 and first discovered in 2008. this goes across republican and democratic party lines. we need to get to the bottom of why it happened. appreciate your indulgence. the chair recognizes ms. dingell five minutes for an opening statement. >> thank you, mr. chairman. the united states geological survey, or u is sgs, is one of
the most esteemed scientific organizations in the world. the agency earned its reputation into everything from earthquakes, to clean drinking water, climate change to fossil fuel reserves. i also know how important the work is because of the usgs's great lakes science center, which is in my district and has played an important role to help stop the spread of asian carp. they come established in the great lakes is enormous which is why i requested that this subcommittee hold a hearing on just one aspect of the damage, the effect of the great lakes. in order to effectively protect that $4.5 billion in economic activity in the great lakes fisheries we must have the best possible science from the best possible scientific institutions. in fact, you would be hard pressed to find a congressional
district that hasn't benefited from usgs's work. which is why it is so disappointing that you have been dealing with the scientific integrity issue. for 18 years, chemists had a small lab in colorado intentionally manipulated some of the data they were hired to produce. none of the duty was used for any state regulations. seven papers were delayed. one had to be retracted. usgs had the chance to correct it when the data manipulation was first uncovered in 2008. but after they cleaned house and hired new analysts and management, the same data manipulation uncontinued, unabated until it was discovered again in 2014. they uncovered other disturbing things. the lab was found to be slow. they took seven times as long to analyze their samples as they
should have. they were slow to identify the manipulation, slow to act to correct it and prevent the problem from happening. they were slow to notify the customers. the investigations also found that management was asleep at the wheel. not only did management fail to catch the problem, one manager looked the other way for a few months. making matters worse, they presided over and may have facilitated a toxic workplace environment. offensive language and behavior created an atmosphere that was so intimidating a scientific investigative body concluded that it contributed to the lab's substandard performance. the report indicated when a female employee tried to blow the whistle on it, management failed to support her. any organization that devalues women in their workplace will not last. the scientific integrity report cited this failure is one of the main reasons it recommended that the lab close permanently.
the closure of this lab is a fair outcome. the usgs got a second chance to correct the problem, and they didn't. i believe the usgs should be held to a higher standard and that the lab closure was the right decision. fortunately, all signs point to this problem being isolated to the organic lab. the closest comparison to usgs is the organic lab which is reputable and in demand. a report by the scientific integrity review panel concluded that the organic laboratory section is extremely productive, well organized structured laboratory that is conducting important scientific research. of course the remainder of the agency continues to churn up science that is essential to the nation. at this point there have been two inspector general reports, a number of external audits, a number of internal reviews and a
scientific integrity investigation. at this point there have been more investigations than the number of analysts that were in the lab. i would be interested to know what my colleagues think this hearing will add to the pile and more specifically how this new information will help usgs become a stronger agency. after all, that's one of the primary functions of oversight, to improve the effectiveness of the agencies that serve the american people. so i hope we can focus today on making sure we can learn from the well documented mistakes, ensure they won't be repeated, and let's focus on building the agency up rather than tearing it down. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. at this time -- the entire written statement will appear in the hearing record.
the light will turn green as it is now. the yellow light comes with one minute remaining. when red light comes, on i will ask that you conclude your statement. mr. workhauser is recognized for his testimony. >> chairman, ranking member dingell, and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today. i am deputy director of the u.s. geological survey. it has served the nation for 137 years providing unbiased science used by decisionmakers covering a wide range of policy issues. our scientific integrity is essential to everything we do. that's why i'm here today to address a serious breach of scientific integrity at usgs. this is not a proud day for our 8,670 employees. in my 30 years of federal service at usgs, this is my lowest moment. in 2014, usgs identified a
potential incident of scientific misconduct at the inorganic kelm try lab in lakewood, colorado. a scientist had been making inproper adjustments from a machine used to measure heavy metals, coal and soil samples. an internal investigation was initiated. usgs promptly reported the possibility of scientific misconduct to the office of inspector general. our investigations into the incident confirmed that this data manipulation constituted scientific misconduct. this closely resembled a similar incident that had occurred from 1996 to 2008. the investigation also identified additional management and personnel problems, including indications of a hostile work environment. i suspect your questions are the same as mine. why didn't we know of it sooner, how could it have happened in the first place, how did it go on for so long without it being
detected? following the recommendations of the investigation, the usgs closed the inorganic section of the laboratory effective march 1st, 2016. all the longer employed by the usgs. we posted public notice of the incident, contacted customers of the inorganic lab, and carefully reviewed work products that could have been made use of manipulated data from the lab, all failure is a serious matter. misconduct and mismanagement will not be tolerated. my job is to ensure a situation like this is never able to occur again. we are undertaking significant steps to enhance data quality assurance and quality control procedures. first i've asked the national academy of sciences to investigate the programs data quality assurance and quality control procedures. secondly, i established a strategic lab committee to ensure all the laboratory assets
are manage the the best support. science mission of the usgs. third, the energy program quality management system to replace current procedures. will include external review and international benchmarking. fourth, we've hired a manager that reports to headquarters to avoid conflict of interest, as well as two quality specialists. overseeing data quality and science centers. taken together, these steps will ensure that any future data quality problems are identified quickly, and dealt with immediately. in our 137 year history, the usgs has built a strong reputation on providing information critical to the nation. for example, our sciences help protect communities in the lava flows and prevent catastrophic rupture along the alaska pipeline. most recently, we released an assessment that 20 billion barrels in west texas.
we do and have done important work in the service of this nation. but none of that excuses or explains this incident. i'm committed to upholding the long-standing reputation for scientific integrity. we will continue to address the issues. we'll make all changes necessary to prevent it from happening again. throughout these incidents, we have tried to be accountable and transparent to the committee and the public. we have worked with your staff to provide briefings, documents, and other relevant information as quickly as possible, and prioritize a delivery of the most critical documents to assist in your oversight. to date, we have provided 270 documents consisting of more than 4,000 pages responsive to 27 of your 30 specific requests. we anticipate supplying the remaining outstanding documents as soon as possible. thank you again for the opportunity to testify today. i'm here to answer any questions you might have. >> all right, thank you, mr. werkheiser.
at this time, we do appreciate your testimony. we appreciate you being here. i know it is not the most fun to do. but we will begin the questioning, and i'll recognize myself for five minutes. you've talked about the troubling aspect of this issue, but like i mentioned in the opening statement, i mean, going back to 1996? that's during the clinton administration. through 2008, that's the bush administration. to 2014, that's the obama administration. i have to tell you, mr. werkheiser, when i first got elected, i can remember going, walking around, steven foster university and they've done some great work in conjunction with the u.s. geological society, i looked at the stuff from the usgs, and my thought, i mean, going back to high school, wow, usgs, this is really quality
stuff. and i got the high grade in science in my high school for, well, i remember seeing usgs, wow, this is really impressive. this is really quality stuff. as we talked about the gold standard. so it is really hearbreaking to think about all of the great work that has been done to build this phenomenal reputation of the u.s. geological society that -- the us geological society that, to come around to the point where we are now, we've had years of just falsity and fraud, manipulating data. you get rid of one employee, and really, it doesn't sound like there were a lot of consequences there. that's deeply troubling. if somebody is falsifying data, it ought to be a blight on their total reputation, and their
professionalism. but i come back to the question i mentioned in my opening statement. so to what end, why the continued falsification and manipulated -- manipulation of data? do you have an answer to the why? i mean, as a lawyer, i was taught never answer the question why. but i really, truly want to know. >> i share your concern. i was appalled and devastated when i learned of this incident. like you, when i was in school, i learned of the usgs through an article, usgs best at what it does in the world. that made me want to become part of usgs. so i was deeply, deeply appalled when i learned about this incident. while i can't look into the minds of the analysts involved, what i can say is that with this
instrument, when the raw information comes off, it often needs to be adjusted to comply with standards that are run -- >> mr. werkheiser, we heard that originally. you have to change it some, because of the calibration. but then it turned out, we heard from usgs, well, that really doesn't explain all of the falsification that we got here. so i appreciate that position, but we heard that before. and then it turned out that really wasn't the proper explanation. so let's try again. do you have some other explanation? why? >> so the issue is that those adjustments were well outside of established standards. so the -- while i can't look into the mind of the person -- >> you've said that twice now. but the fact is, you can ask the scientists why. did you ever ask these people why did you do this? >> yes, they were asked why. their explanation was that they
felt those manipulations were justified, when in fact, they were not. and we looked at, to see if there was a pattern of that manipulation. it was consistently high, higher than the value should it have been, lower than the value, trying to drive some agenda to falsify that. there was no consistent bias in that information. sfiemt stiemts it -- stiemts it was high, sometimes it was low. and in fact, the way the samples are submitted, there is no way for them to know what the samples will be used for, the project is not identified. so i cannot explain exactly why, except for what they tell us. it was an effort to inn their minds to provide more accurate information, which is absolutely not the case. >> that's total irony. you manipulate data in order to make it more accurate. that is totally incongruent. well, what do you believe the
long-term effects of usgs's reputation in the science field? i mean, you got university students that are now going, what are we supposed to do? this is totally bogus science here. >> this is damaging to our reputation. absolutely no doubt about that. and so all i can do is to ensure that we rebuild and regain the reputation. the four steps i outlined before, bringing the national academy of sciences to evaluate our protocols to help us into the future. the establishment of our strategic laboratory committee, to look at all our assets, every lab, the implementation of a quality management system. >> has that been done? >> quality management system is underway. >> my time is expired. i recognize ms. dingell. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
deputy director werkheiser, because i so value usgs' work, and that it does, the people that work there i want to ask you about the workplace environment at the lab. as you know, the scientific integrity review panel was appalled to learn there was a toxic work environment, by use of offensive language and behavior, end quote. it appears to be created at least in part by lab analyst that was flippant and difficult to work with. when a female staff member brought the issue to the attention of two levels of management, management and human relations appeared to have failed adequately address the harassment. she was reportedly one of the several recipients of bullying behavior in the lab. while it sounds like it is not a case of sexual harassment, because it happened to men and women, it is a case of harassment that apparently also and for a very long time without being addressed. in fact, it might not have been discovered at all or paid
attention to, even though it was being reported, if not for this particular scientific integrity investigation. i want to know, how in the absence of this kind of investigative report and other parts of usgs can we know that such a hostile work environment has not taken root elsewhere in the agency? >> thank you for the question. i also was deeply disturbed to learn of the hostile work environment at play here. i was appalled at that environment. so the main question of how can we be assured that this doesn't happen elsewhere in the agency is one of great importance to me. i'll point to two things, it is not a culture within usgs. the two things i'll point to, if you look at the sexual harassment claims, they are the lowest in the department of interior.
federal employee viewpoint, they score higher, employee engagement, employee satisfaction. those results are consistently higher than the department and consistently higher than the government overall. however, those are just statistics. even one instance of hostile environment or sexual harassment is one too many. so our job is how do we ensure, how do we ensure we have a workplace where people feel safe and are comfortable bringing forward issues and not be afraid of retribution. so in doing that, we take it very seriously and we're undertaking a number of things that is happening. first, all the executives within usgs have attended training on workplace environment, workplace culture. that training will be cascaded through the organization, and
until every employee has received that training, made aware. the other thing we've done is in looking at this case in particular, it is clear that the employee did not feel comfortable coming forward. so we need to have advocates for employees who represent their interest, and that they can go to confidentially and not be concerned about any retribution or any type of stigma attached to coming forward. so we're working with the department of interior to make our employees have access to an ambuds person, and the other thing i'll say is the director takes this very seriously. she has issued several memos and communications with employees on the issue. she has developed a work group to look at and -- workplace issues, and reaching out to organizations, such as the
american geosciences institute and the american geophysical union to look at the process succe from those large institutions and bringing them into usgs. >> let me ask you two questions. i work there and i want to report harassment, and how can i do that to maintain my which whistleblowing will be confidential. >> we have worked with the office of diversity and equal opportunity. that's where those claims are looked at and investigated. we've -- we've thhad that looke at by the eeoc i guess several years ago now, they determined the systems were not totally adequate just what you asked. that confidentiality and that ability to look and investigate an issue fully without any type
of sigma attached to it. so we're revising our policies in our office. we're working with the department do that. >> thank you, ms. dingell. i appreciate you getting into that issue like that. i was reminded in very recent years, we actually impeached a couple of judges, and one of them was about the workplace environment, harassment of the women on his staff, and he should have been thrown out of office for what the things he was doing. i'm wondering outloud here, maybe we need to encourage people that work in the federal government, if you got a hostile workplace environment, maybe we need to know and drag those people up here and over the coals so people can feel if they are tempted to abuse people
working for them, particularly women working for them, maybe you'll get a chance up here and be totally humiliated in front of the whole world. we'll have to keep that in mind. it, i recognize mr. labrador for five minutes. >> thank you mr. werkheiser for being here today. do you believe the chemist was qualified for the job? >> when using the instrument that he first started on in 2010 i believe it was, 2009, yes. new instrumentation was procured in 2012. and evidence indicates that he was not qualified to operate that instrument. >> it appears that other employees of the inorganic chemistry lab were aware that the chemist in question didn't have database experience to do his job. they described his microsoft excel knowledge as rudimentary,
i.e., freshman college level. the sirp report called it inc e incomprehensible without data processing skills. he was a 30 year employee, working with expensive equipment, handling projects with a value in excess of $100 million. how did he maintain his employment? >> most of his career was working in a different lab doing different things. he was transferred to the inorganic chemistry lab in 2009 or 2010, where he took over those new duties. it was clearly a management failure and failure at several levels. we, again, through these procedures and through this quality management system implementation, we intend to make sure it doesn't happen again, or if it does, we catch it quickly and take appropriate action. >> i'm trying to understand,
because you missed -- mr. werkheiser, you are one of the best witnesses in congress. i want to praise you for taking responsibility. you seem to care about your job. i'm trying to understand how this happened. someone that cares about what you're doing, so much pride in the work you do, how did there happen? have you thought about that? >> i've thought about it often, long and hard. and the responsibility for ensuring that our employees are doing their jobs resides in all levels of management, from first line supervisor up to the director of the u.s. geological survey. failure as long that way are inexcusable. i need to do a better job of holding my supervisors accountable and that will trickle down through the organization. >> i'm concerned about this and think everyone should be concerned, as you are. here, we have employees who have already been described as the gold standard of scientific
institutions and they don't have the basic knowledge necessary to enter data into a compute e com. how do we know this isn't happening elsewhere? >> we have a number of labs throughout the country, and in fact, one of the labs in denver that you just mentioned is our national water quality lab, whereas the lab in question, the inorganic chemistry lab samples 775 samples a year, the other, 35,000 to 40,000 a year. it is much larger, employs a larger staff. the denver lab are stringent. it is a best practice. recognized. reviewed often by external agencies, and there are other labs, most of the lab as cross usgs that have that type of volume and that type of stature have similar water quality management sis at the presents in place. research labs are staffed by one
or two people, do work for their project, maybe developing methods that p don't exist it. looking at very unique types of constituen constituents. those quality management systems are not as robust because they don't exist. the new effort will encompass all of the labs. >> so can you give us some reason to continue to have faith in the research produced by the usgs? >> yes, i think the, as i said, i am confident this was an isolated example. the -- we have other quality assurance measures in place, for example, at the project, many of the projects that use this lab have their own quality assure ranlss in place, and they actually caught a number of the issues and did not use that information, and because they have those quality assurance procedures. >> does the energy resources at lake wood have a fully
functional system in place? >> not at this time. it is what is being implemented now. >> how has it taken this long to still not have a quality management system. >> we have had systems, they were not effective, as we mentioned in the opening statement. a number of reviews, in particular, in lab, there were after the 2008 incident, there was an internal review by a team from outside the lab. there was an external review in 2012 that had 29 recommendations that were implemented, but it was the responsibility of the local management to implement those recommendations and they were slow to do that. so those previous efforts were not successful. we need to ensure the future effort is successful and we believe the robust system is the right way to do it. and we've tried other ways, that have not been effective. >> like i said, i've really enjoyed you as a witness and i want to believe you, but the
fact that we don't have a system in place is very concerning to all of us. >> thank you, mr. labrador. the chair recognizes mr. westerman for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman, mr. werkheiser, thank you for your pretty much raw testimony today. i know this is not the first time this issue has been discussed in this committee. the last time there was only a little bit of smoke, and we thought there was probably some fire. i think you've verified that there was wrongdoing, and definitely fire associated with this. figuratively speaking, obviously. i would like to commend the chairman and ranking member, and i think this is a sign of the seriousness of this issue, that scientific intellectual integrity is an important thing to everyone that crosses party lines, and it is something at that we simply just could not tolerate. if you look at the founding of our greatest educational
institutions in this country that even predate the constitution, the motto of harvard is vera tose, so transparency and truth, this nation has held that to are paramount for a long time. when issues like this happen, it troubles us. personally, i've worked as an engineer for over 20 years and i use usgs data, and it makes me think did i make professional decisions that i'm accountable for, based on flawed data. even though it wasn't this data, but it was usgs data, and there are thousands of people across the country that have experienced that. so when we think about what has happened and how to move forward, and why we as members of congress and keepers of the taxpayers dollar, why should we continue to invest in usgs, i
think we need a better answer. i know that this data may not have been used directly in policy, but how much of this data was used by people in industry, people in research, how much of it, i mean, testing coal and heavy metals, bad decisions made that resulted in somebody doing something in the process that harmed the environment? were there decisions made that prevented someone from using something in the process that caused the economic damage? i think we need a better explanation that you go back and find out exactly why this data was manipulated, what the far reaching effects are, you know. there is a proverb says if a thief is caught, he should repay it seven times over. i think usgs needs to do a more
in-depth investigation so that we feel comfortable that the problem has been rectified and it won't happen again. so are there any efforts underway to go back and trace the knowledge trail to see where this data might have been used, and even public opinion may have been influenced by articles written based on this research. which actually could affect policy decisions. where are you in the process of going back and uncovering the real damage that was done? >> we're continuing to investigate the original information. part of the issue, and part of the reason that makes this so bad is that good records, standard procedures for keeping records were not kept. so the raw data that it came off was not necessarily archived. however, we have gone back and retrieved a number of that, a significant amount of that information from other sources,
and we're evaluating what that manipulation exactly looked like, how severe was it, can we recreate what the values should have been. we didn't have that information when we first started the investigation. we have some of it now. we're hoping go back and learn from that. we were also making an effort to go back and look at the stakeholders who may have used products from this lab. most of those are internal, and we feel confident that none of the data used from this, at least this latest incident, made it into the public domain. that the projects that used -- that had the analyses run were able to capture it, able to -- it was definitely inefficient and cost money, but they were able to use other means to reach their conclusions. >> so 20 years of research, and none of it ever got outside of the usgs? >> yeah, so i should have been clearer. it was this latest incident from
2009-2014. we could not evaluate the previous 1996-2008, that information. however, we have talked to scientists who use that information who had projects back in that time frame, and were evaluating the potential impacts from that. the other thing we're doing is we're looking at those 33 projects that use the information from the latest incident, and are trying to backtrack that to look at all stakeholders so even if the data didn't make it into the public domain, there may have been informal communications with others and we're trying to backtrack that also. >> so you could maybe do a research on where the lab was sided back as far as 20 years ago and other research papers, and also i'm out of time, but when do you expect to have that report to us on the effects of
the manipulated data. >> it will take several months to do that investigation. but certainly as soon as we have it, we would be happy to come and talk to you about it. >> yield back, mr. chairman. >> the chair recognizes mr. heistert. >> thank you. obviously it is disturbing to all of us, disservicing to you as well, i'm sure you've communicated that. but when you've got decades of falsified manipulated data, we all recognize it is inexcusable. it is phenomenal that something can take place like this for so long, and either not be checked, or be overlooked, whichever the case was. it is inexcusable. then we find that as you mentioned, i believe 2008, when
a new scientist was brought in, he immediately begins doing the same thing. and earlier, in fact, this year, receives a 30 year service award. noy, it sounds like it is a resume enhancer to come in and be involved in data manipulation, but the fact that it was intentional, the fact that it was continuous, is very difficult to wrap my mind around, and i'm sure others feel the same way. now, let's go to this second chemist, the new chemist that came in. we already had from 1996 to 2008, a long period of manipulated data. we had a new chemist come in in 2014, that chemist, as i mentioned earlier, had also been
manipulating data. now, how long did that chemist stay on the payroll after his fraudulent activity was discovered? >> so the -- in october of 2014, a stop work order was issued. and that chemist was involved in trying to recreate the work he had done. personnel actions were started. were initiated. and i believe it was june 2016 is when the separation took place. >> all right, june 2016, after he received 30 year length of service award, did he retire? ? did he get full benefits? >> i would be happy -- >> please provide that. i would be curious to know.
>> so two years, he still remained on the payroll. what was he doing? >> so trying to recreate the information that was in question. >> trying to recreate the falsified information? >> trying to justify his action to the various bodies that went through the lab. >> so we were -- "we" taxpayers were paying for a guy that manipulated data to justify why he manipulated it? is that what you're telling us? >> to look at exactly the questions you had asked. why did this happen, how did it happen. >> that sounds to me like it could be done through interrogation, rather than giving him two years on the payroll. >> our personnel processes are complex. >> so did no one integrate him? >> they certainly questioned him. >> did no one try to just sit down and have -- >> yes.
>> get the fabcts on the table? >> several times. >> did it take two years of him being paid? i don't understand this. it sounds like brief slap on the wrist, after he receives an award. >> the length of service, is now he, that's exactly what it says, you work for 30 years, and you get recognized for that. i would -- i don't think it was -- >> let's not go -- what disciplinary actions do you have against employee whose commit data manipulation and fraud? or commit something against supervisors? >> right, various penalties, including suspension without pay up to separation. >> that obviously didn't occur in this case in. >> the action was initiated, yes. >> after two years? >> no, i mean, it was initiated. >> what discipline occurred?
>> the investigation is, like i said, it is complex. it takes time. >> my question has do with what discipline action was taken. >> the -- again, i would be happy to provide that information. >> provide the information, mr. werkheiser, it would seem like something you would be prepared to answer. >> i cannot answer. >> all right, let me -- mr. chairman, i have one further question. okay, thank you. this subcommittee has repeatedly asked since september 23rd letter for the performance evaluation of these two chemists who committed the manipulation. to this point, we have still not received those evaluations. when can we expect to receive that? >> that information has left the usgs, it is at the department being reviewed it. part of the -- much of that
information was not responsive to the the question and so we went through it, and brought out the information, specific information requested. that is now at the department being reviewed and will be here as soon as -- >> all due respect, sir, we are the ones that want to review that information. we are the ones who requested it, and we expect when will we receive it? >> it is at the department. we have as, i'm sure you are aware. >> give me a timeline, general. >> approximately two weeks. >> thank you, sir. i yield back. thank you for your indulgence, mr. chairman. >> thank you. at this time, recognized for five minutes. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for your appearance today, mr. werkheiser. i assume the lab lost a significant amount of credibility when the disclosure was made. what is really amazing and
troubling among many details of this case is that the lab went ahead as if nothing occurred, and you doubled down on $174,000 piece of equipment. no one either knew how to operate, cared enough to operate correctly, or was even interested enough to oversee. how do you justify buying a new piece of equipment, like a mass spectrometer, when no one was willing to verify that it was operated correctly? >> in any situation, any laboratory situation, upgrades to equipment are a common business practice, and we need to stay on the nor froforefront technology. oftentimes in my experience and in the water quality laboratory, when those equipment, the new generation comes out, they process more samples in a shorter amount of time and are more efficient. plus, they provide information that's more accurate and rely
a -- reliablreliable. it occurs throughout the labs, in this case, the critical failure was not training this individual, not ensuring this individual had the appropriate training and background to operate the equipment appropriately. that is a management failure. that again is something that we recognize and that we will move forward to correct as part of the -- some of the tasks we're undertaking to improve the quality of our laboratories. >> we have one report stating the lab had an average turn around time of 224 days to process samples. did the lab have a reputation for long turn around times to process samples? >> it did. much longer than could be achieved in private laboratories. the decision to close the lab
also included those operational issues, such as turn around time and efficiency, and value to the taxpayer. >> coupled with that knowledge, why was management so complacent? or as the scientific integrity review panel described, characterized by conscious aq acquiesceness. >> it was clearly a management failure. as managers and supervisors, we owe it to the taxpayer and to this country to hold ourselves and our employees accountable. that didn't happen in this case. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i yield back. >> thank you. would doe ha we do have a few more questions. for one thing, you heard from
the ranking member that the s.r.p. reported that a culture of harassment existed at the lab. i mean, that is so incredibly serious. and by the way, we've been going through this hear all this time and i don't believe a single name has been mentioned. we are covered by speech and debate clause privilege. regarding things that are said on the record, but for the record, i would like to have who was the person who was manipulating the data, beginning back in 1996? we haven't heard a name. >> people need to know. >> i would be happy to provide that in private. our advice is that because this is being broadcast that we should not -- because of privacy
concerns, i should not. >> well, that's just -- that's the whole reason i ask. if somebody is harassed, making an abusive workplace, i want their name out there. i want -- they should not be provided protection from having their name mentioned, and with regard to privacy concerns, that's what i'm saying, this is a -- this is protected, you don't have to worry about lawsuits, but if somebody is abusing a female employees, i think it is good to talk him, like we did in judiciary, when we had a judge doing that. i would like for any man that is tempted to do that, to realize that some day, his name is going to be brought up in a broadcast. >> what i can say is those employees are no longer with the u.s. geological survey. i would be happy to provide that information privately. my advice has been, my advice
has been not to provide that publicly, because of the public nature of this hearing. >> mr. chairman, i do think that we need to make the point, this is still under active investigation, and that the committee probably has right at the investigation to ask for the findings. so is that correct? this is still under active investigation? >> yes. >> that's the case okay, it is still under active investigation. so the investigation is not concluded. is that right? >> well, not the overall investigation is not. those employees are no longer with the u.s. geological survey, but they're still an active component going on. >> active component to what? >> to learn exactly what happened, what the nature of the issues were, how severe it was. it is not a formal investigation, but we are still investigating the issue. >> mr. chairman, again, so when
i had questions about how were they allowed to retire, what were the circumstances, were people held accountable, are we going to get that report? i shared your concern. >> yes. >> so i think was told it was still under active investigation. they didn't have that yet, but i would like -- i think this committee would like to see it when -- >> we can certainly provide that to the committee, yes. >> all right, thank you. well, i would very much like to have that information. and if the investigation has formally concluded, you say there may be some informality in the continuation, well, if it is formally concluded, i would like this committee to have access to that information to know who was creating the problem, and i don't care if they retired or not. there need to be consequences, even if at a minimum, it is
having your name discussed on the record as someone who is abusing the employees under your supervision. so you are agreeing to get us that information. >> yes, sir. >> with regard to the investigation? >> yes, sir. >> okay, and i do want to follow-up with a couple of more questions. did the lab management take the discovery of the second instance of continuous data manipulation seriously? >> yes. when the second incident was discovered, the lab management acted immediately to notify the program, the energy resources program at headquarters and initiated an internal investigation, science quality and integrity, that investigation eventually led to notification of the inspector general, self-reported, and the science center management was
generated all those requests. >> well, the reason i ask is that the s.i.r.p. noted that the lead physical scientist, quality assurance officer asserted, and i'm quoting, that all related to the, i guess, that was activities, related to the s.r.p. are not necessary, and that the situation has been blown completely out of proportion, unquote. >> yes. >> that sounded like it was not being taken seriously. >> right, so the qaqc person was not in the management chain. they're not a supervisor. the person in the management chain took it very seriously and reported it. >> well, did the laboratory's culture fostered by the u.s. geological survey promote an environment where a person who would feel comfortable coming forward to expose the wrongdoing? >> that is our -- that is our
job, that is our job to create that -- >> i know it is the job. the question is whether it was done. >> in this case, i don't believe enough was done to create that environment. >> the s.i.r.p. found that whistleblowing related to the second incident of data manipulation created, quote, a feeling of mistrust, and resentment present at all levels, unquote. so it sounds like there is a lot more work that needs to be done there. >> i would certainly agree. >> all right. >> i yield to the gentlemen from arkansas for five minutes. >> thank you again, mr. chairman. mr. werkheiser, one thing that still troubles me is something
in the response in the letter that you sent to chairman gohm p ert. it says here we've been unable to determine consistent calculations that the analyst used in performing those data manipulations. is that still being investigated? or is that your final say on it? >> so the -- the analyst in question has been consistent in his responses. that he viewed that he was doing an appropriate adjustment to the data, even though it is clear that it has not. so i don't think any further questioning of that person will yield anything different from that. was there a pattern, a consistent as to what -- how that manipulation happened, the reasons for it is still under investigation, since we've been able to identify some of that through notebooks and those type
of things, some of that information we're trying to recreate exactly what happened. >> so there is still investigation going on to try to determine the rational? >> yes. >> the june 2016 department interior inspector general report noted the second case of continuous data manipulation at the lakewood facility affected at a minimum projects that received $108 million in funding. however, what remains unclear is the dollar value of the projects that were impacted by the data manipulation that occurred at the lab between '96 and 20008 and we talked about that earlier about the records. could you tell the committee what was the aggregate dollar value? >> we've been trying to assemble that information. actually, i do not have that information. but i will -- i would like to follow-up on the $108 million
figure. that represents the total funding for those projects that use the lab, the actual value of those samples that were analyzed much less than that. so the projects that -- the results they make, they use many lines of evidence, outside labs, a number of -- it represents the entire effort to produce a report or assessment. the value of the impacted from the laboratory is probably a tenth of that. >> so do you know how many projects were in the time period? ? we have the dollar amount, but what was the number of projects affected? >> in the second incident, 22 projects. we actually do not -- we do not have the information for that first incident. >> you don't even know how many projects? >> not for the first one. those records just don't -- they don't exist back that far.
we can have partial records, but data back to '96, okay, yeah, that was prior to an automated laboratory information system put in place in 2010. >> hopefully you can understand the heartburn that creates, a federally funded research lab with no data or no backup. >> i do understand that on the financial side. we will try to recreate as much as we can. >> even on the research side. >> on the research side, we know that the -- do we know how many projects? we do not know. >> no way to find out? >> i will go back and -- >> i had a follow-up question about did any of the data derived from the lab affect any federal legislation or regulation, federal or state?
if you don't know what projects were done, obviously there is no way to determine if the research affected any state or federal regulations. >> i cannot address that with any certainty. that's true. >> i guess with that, mr. chairman, i don't -- i am at a loss for words. >> do you have any further questions? >> all right, now, i would like to thank the witness, mr. werkheiser, thank you for being here. i appreciate the participation of the members, the ranking member, and obviously, this is a reminder why we must be vigilant and make every effort to hold executive branch accountable to the taxpayers. while i hope this revelation of mass data manipulation is limited in scope, it is only through careful examination we can learn and move forward with
confidence. and you know, it is normally an assurance to the public that we have this republican, i mean, small r, form of government, where we have representatives, and if one party or one administration is manipulating or providing abusive work environment, then it is always been a bit of a comfort, well, that changes, and the next one coming in will surely correct that. we have seen just an outrageous example of how none of those safeguards worked. none of the checks and balance work. and then we have someone whose name i want to say on the record, when we get the information, but you got people creating a hostile work environment. you got people totally manipulating data.
fraudulent activity, a person involved in it is replaced to bring an end, only to see that continue on. it just is staggering. as we said at the beginning, and i think ranking member and i both, i mean, we have always thought of the u.s. geological survey as just the gold standard. and now, i'm not even sure it merits a mercury standard. i mean, it is changing and moving, and doesn't seem to have much of a forum. it is like that terrible joke about what would you like the answer to be. i mean, any way, as much as i would like to dismiss the issue, we just cannot. the facts come out, it seems to just open more and more questions. how did this go on for over the span of three decades, with
procedures, policy and management over the course of 18 years, how does this happen. i know the u.s. geological survey wants to put this behind them. but as a committee, we cannot close the books on this, when the administration witness shows up with a two sentence explanation. this was a chance to get the record straight, and now we've been assured you will get us additional information when the investigation is concluded, but i would suggest to you that we're still waiting for documents that we requested three months ago. some of the documents we did receive were redacted. they were duplicates. or even blank pages. this document i'm holding up here, record of dynex,
2000-2011, that's page one cover sheet, page two is blank. page three, it is blank. page four, and it is a comfort, because this says, this page, like all these pages, it is only for our committee use. it is a blank piece of paper. page five, this is only for committee use. it is a blank piece of paper. i don't know what you were expecting this committee, whether it is this side of the aisle or that side of the aisle, what is the committee supposed to do? play tic-tack-toe. we have a little bit on page eight. again, a blank piece of paper on page nine. ten, we at least have a few
things on that. 11, another blank piece of paper. this is -- this is extraordinary. i mean, it is unbelievable, the federal government, regardless of administration, the federal government is being reduced to a joke. except it is so deadly serious. so the gold standard, it is not even a good toilet paper standard. so when you submit the additional information, please give us something besides blank pieces of paper. because otherwise, at the hearing where we get into the names of people who have dishonored the government, dishonored themselves, dishonored those who worked under them, we don't want to have to bring up your name as one of those that is dishonored the committee. you've been very gracious to
come up here, and to try to deal with this issue. but we hope this administration comes to a close, the integrity and transparency will be restored. department of interior will abandon entrenched eye ideologies and hold wrong doers accountedable. one way or another, this committee will hold wrong doers account baable and we want to m sure your name isn't one of those that is helping for cover people who have done wrong over the years. if you'll bear with me just one moment. with that, let me also mention the ranking member dingle, other members on the committee may have additional questions for the witness, and under our
rules, if any member has additional questions, you will be required to respond to those, and we're not talking about blank pieces of paper with a stamp on it, "it is for committee use only." under 4h, the hearing record will be held open for ten business days to provide those responses after such questions, if any, are asked. if there is no further business, then at this time, the committee stands adjourned.
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