Pentagon "whistleblower" A. Ernest Fitzgerald has lost an effort in the Supreme Court to collect $13,813 in interest on the four-year back pay award he collected from the Air Force after it was found to have unlawfully fired him.

The justices declined to disturb a ruling in which the U.S. Court of Appeals said last June that the interest payment was precluded under the Back Pay Act "despite our sympathy for Fitzgerald's position."

Fitzgerald was deputy assistant secretary for management systems in November 1969 when the Air Force removed him, stripped him of tenured status, and secretly investigated and harassed him.

Fitzgerald, in a legal battle that has lasted nine years, established that the reason for his dismissal was his disclosure, at a congressional Joint Economic Committee hearing, that there had been a $2 billion cost overrun on the Lockheed C5A transport.

Fitzgerald was restored to duty in December 1973, although without a free hand to exercise his full cost-cutting abilities.

His back pay award, after allowance for substitute income, was set in legal proceedings at $72,749. The appeals court said that the government was immune from paying the interest asked by his suit.

In seeking Supreme Court review, Fitzgerald's lawyer, John Bodner Jr., urged overturn of the "judicially created" doctrine of "sovereign immunity" when full recovery of lost income is sought from the government by citizens it has "grievously and wrongfully injured." The Justice Department said it is a matter for Congress to decide, not the courts. CAPTION:

Picture, A. ERNEST FITZGERALD... Case rejected