A. Ernest Fitzgerald, Pentagon whistleblower, Nixon victim, and early libertarian ally, died January 31 at 92. In a remembrance to Fitzgerald delivered Wednesday on the Senate floor, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, called him “a tenacious watchdog … a hero for taxpayers and a warrior against waste.” As the Washington Post reported:
A. Ernest Fitzgerald, a Pentagon official tasked with analyzing project expenses, was summoned to Capitol Hill in 1968 to discuss a new fleet of Lockheed C-5A transport planes before the Joint Economic Committee.
He had been instructed to play dumb about the cost.
He did not.
Under oath, he said the C-5A was $2 billion over budget. In testifying, Mr. Fitzgerald later said, he was merely “committing truth.”
The revelation about the vast cost overruns made national headlines, stunning members of Congress as well as Mr. Fitzgerald’s superiors. Back at the Pentagon, he was met with a blunt question from his secretary: “Have you been fired yet?”
Mr. Fitzgerald lasted another two years in his position before President Richard M. Nixon ordered his dismissal….
“This guy that was fired,” he told aide Charles W. Colson, “I’d marked it in the news summary. That’s how that happened. I said get rid of that son of a bitch.”
Fitzgerald fought to get his job back, and did. He remained an Air Force employee until 2006, though he said he was “completely excluded from the big weapons systems jobs. They keep me out of Boeing’s and Lockheed’s hair.”
Meanwhile, he also became an activist on government waste issues. Early on, he served as chairman of the libertarian-founded National Taxpayers Union and then as chairman of the National Taxpayers Legal Fund. He told Reason that “in most respects” he considered himself a libertarian. He developed the idea for the Project on Military Procurement, which evolved into the Project on Government Oversight.