WASHINGTON – A Marine Corps science adviser who blamed military brass for failing to field life-saving vehicles faster to troops in Iraq has had his security clearance reinstated, allowing him to return to his post at the Pentagon, his lawyers and the Office of Special Counsel announced Wednesday.

Franz Gayl had been put on leave with pay last year after his security clearance had been suspended for alleged improper use of a flash drive in a secure computer.

Gayl maintained he never used the portable data storage device, but last month the Marine Corps notified him he would be suspended indefinitely without pay. The Office of Special Counsel, the independent federal agency charged with protecting whistle-blowers, received a reprieve on Gayl’s behalf for a month to investigate whether his suspension was in retaliation for his comments on delays in fielding Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles.

The chief of the special counsel’s office, Carolyn Lerner, said Wednesday she applauded the military’s decision to restore Gayl’s top-secret security clearance. In arguing on Gayl’s behalf, Lerner’s office pointed to news media accounts, including a story in USA TODAY in which Gayl said his superiors began retaliating against him in 2007 for calling for Marine leaders to be held accountable for delays in delivering MRAPs.

The Marine Corps declined to comment specifically on Gayl’s case.

“Personnel matters involving federal employees are subject to privacy laws and regulations,” Marine Maj. Stewart Upton said in a statement. “The Marine Corps takes very seriously the proper handling and resolution of any employee issues, and as in any other case we are taking the appropriate actions.”

Gayl’s contentions about the Marines’ failures to procure MRAPs were corraborated by a Pentagon inspector general’s report released in 2008. The report found that Marine combat planners delayed for months an urgent request in 2005 for 1,169 MRAPs.

Gayl has said his advocacy for MRAPs and other equipment made Pentagon and Marine Corps procurement officials uncomfortable. Before he left office this summer, former Defense secretary Robert Gates told USA TODAY that the trucks had saved thousands of lives.

Gayl, a former Marine officer, says he looks forward to returning to his job.

“I am as committed as ever to return to my Marine Corps to work hard in support of all Marines in the capacities for which I was hired,” Gayl said in a statement issued by the Government Accountability Project, whose lawyers represented him.