News Bureau | University of Illinois

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign logo


2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008
Email to a friend envelope icon for send to a friend

Whistleblower on Army Corps of Engineers to speak Oct. 12

Andrea Lynn , News Editor
(217) 333-2894;


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Donald C. Sweeney, the man who blew the whistle on a 1998-1999 $50 million study of the expansion of dams on the upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, will talk about his experience Oct. 12 at the University of Illinois.

Sweeney’s talk, which is titled "My Experience in Opposing the Army Corps of Engineers," is set for 3:30 p.m. in 219 Davenport Hall, 607 S. Mathews Ave., Urbana. The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the geography department.

Sweeney, the former U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ economist who protested, first internally and later publicly, the corp’s reversal of his study’s conclusions, is now a visiting scholar at the University of Missouri at St. Louis.

"The study first concluded with the statement that no expansion was economically warranted, then suddenly the conclusion was reversed," said Bruce Hannon, UI professor of geography.

In his affidavit, which was filed with the U.S. Office of Special
Counsel, Sweeney said, in part: "This affidavit describes how the benefit and cost analysis has been intentionally and deliberately altered to produce a seemingly favorable recommendation for immediate large-scale expensive improvements (essentially doubling the length of seven system locks) as a result of the instructions of top Army Corps of Engineers officials."

He went on to say that the affidavit discusses "how new personnel were put in charge of the benefit and cost analysis and explicitly instructed not to produce their best unbiased analysis or, for that matter, any analysis they actually believed to be valid or in compliance with Corps of Engineers regulations, but instead to produce an ‘analysis’ that immediately ‘justified’ large-scale, expensive structural improvements."

After Sweeney’s conflict with the corps became widely known, "the U.S. Inspector General and the National Academy of Sciences backed up Sweeney’s position in later reports," Hannon said, adding that "like all such whistleblowers who are eventually supported by the Inspector General and the National Academy of Sciences, the adulation come much later than the grinding uncertainty and job loss associated with the act of making Corps’ actions public. It is especially memorable when the person is a high-end professional."

Hannon said he suspects "that many UI faculty members would like to understand what motivated this courageous professional to insist that the truth emerge on this study."