An Inspector General serves as an independent watchdog in each federal agency, promoting integrity and efficiency, and rooting out fraud, waste, and abuse of authority in our government. Since The Wall Street Journal published my Op-Ed, “Obama’s Inspector General Negligence,” on June 4, the president has at long last nominated candidates to fill three of the six long-standing vacant IG positions highlighted in the Op-Ed.
The president nominated an IG candidate for the U.S. Agency for International Development on June 10; for the Department of Defense on June 21; and for the Department of State on June 27. The president has yet to nominate IG candidates for the multi-year IG vacancies at three other Departments: Interior; Labor; and Homeland Security (DHS).
Meanwhile, another IG scandal has emerged, involving nine allegations of misconduct against the Deputy IG at DHS. In the absence of a Senate-confirmed IG, the DHS Deputy IG has been the acting (or de facto) IG since February 27, 2011. This latest IG scandal illustrates the damage to the effectiveness of the IG system that can result when an agency insider — not a duly sworn and appointed independent official — is left to mind the store.
On June 27, two key senators sent a letter to the DHS Deputy IG, summarizing all of the allegations of misconduct the senators had received from “numerous whistleblowers.” That letter has since been posted on the web, and indicates that it was cc’ed to both the Chair of the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) and, surprisingly, the “Counsel, Office of Professional Responsibility, Department of Justice.”
The two senators, Chairman Claire McCaskill and Ranking Member Ron Johnson of the Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight, have requested that the DHS Deputy IG provide detailed “information and interviews to the subcommittee as soon as possible, but in no case later than July 19, 2013.”
Because I believe in the American principle that even IGs should be presumed innocent until proven guilty, I will not repeat all the specific allegations against the DHS Deputy IG. Suffice to say, one of the most serious allegations appears to be similar to the recently published allegations against the Deputy IG at State, and has been publicly characterized as “whitewashing” an IG Report last year involving sexual misconduct by U.S. Secret Service personnel in Cartagena, Colombia.
From my experience as Inspector General of the Department of Defense for almost four years, having taken over a three-year vacant Office of Inspector General enmeshed in an integrity scandal, bad things happen in an IG office when there is no Senate-confirmed leader.
Within the six federal agencies without a Senate-confirmed Inspector General, IG-related scandals will continue to fester until the president appoints qualified, independent, Senate-confirmed IGs.
For example, unanswered factual questions linger about the Benghazi Consulate terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2012, and the subsequent efforts by senior State Department officials to propagate false information about the cause of that attack. Any Senate-confirmed State Department IG worth his or her salt would have resolved these factual issues months ago.
Now that the president has nominated a candidate to become the Inspector General at State, perhaps someone will soon tell the American taxpayers who was responsible for the blatantly false parts of Ambassador Susan Rice’s “talking points” that she used during her multiple and now infamous post-Benghazi attack TV appearances.
Likewise, a Senate-confirmed IG for the Department of State ought to be able to tell the American people in short order which senior State Department officials were behind the recent revelations by a former investigator for the State Department Office of Inspector General that multiple investigations by the Department’s “Special Investigations Division” were compromised by senior State Department officials, and that the facts behind those compromises were omitted from the final IG Report.
According to a June 19, Wall Street Journal
article, the six federal agencies in which the Obama administration has thus far neglected to appoint an Inspector General “account for about $843 billion in annual spending, almost a quarter of the federal budget.”
While I applaud the president for at least nominating candidates to fill three of these six gaping IG vacancies, I would note that he did not nominate a candidate to fill the scandalous five-year vacancy at the Department of State until two days after Senator Ted Cruz of Texas formally put a hold on all State Department nominations until the president “nominates a credible and independent Inspector General for the State Department.”
In any event, all the IG vacancies in the six major federal agencies (and in a handful of smaller agencies) will continue to be part of the problem instead of part of the solution until those IG vacancies are filled with qualified, independent, Senate-confirmed inspectors general.
At a time when the costs of operating our government are rising, and the expanded role of government in the lives of private citizens is becoming a heightened concern to many, perhaps it’s time to get back to basic principles of American government: integrity; efficiency; and transparent accountability. These principles are “first things” that define an inspector general. We need more, not less, of these American principles.
Inspectors general can help us move in this direction . . . but only if they are properly appointed and allowed to do their jobs. In this regard, the IG vacancies buck stops at the top.
Joseph E. Schmitz served as inspector general of the Dept. of Defense from 2002-2005 and is CEO of Joseph E. Schmitz, PLLC. He is author of the recently released “Inspector General Handbook,” which is now available on Amazon and elsewhere. Read more reports from Joseph E. Schmitz — Click Here Now.
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