The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that investigates and exposes waste, corruption, abuse of power, and when the government fails to serve the public or silences those who report wrongdoing.
We champion reforms to achieve a more effective, ethical, and accountable federal government that safeguards constitutional principles.
We got our start in 1981 as a small Pentagon watchdog—an offshoot of the National Taxpayers Union and funded by a mix of conservative and progressive foundations. With the help of Pentagon insiders and government documents, our small organization brought to light wasteful Pentagon spending, such as $7,600 coffee pots and $435 hammers. Then we began shining the light on the ineffectiveness of larger weapons systems such as the 1982 M1-Abrams tank—about which the Pentagon falsified testing reports and put soldiers at risk.
We realized fairly quickly that waste, fraud, corruption, and abuse of power wasn’t limited to the Pentagon but was a widespread problem across the federal government. So we decided to expand our mission, and have been keeping a watchful eye over the entire federal government for 29 years.
Throughout that time, POGO’s work has been applauded by Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, federal workers and whistleblowers, other nonprofits, and the media, and we’ve continued to grow and add to our programs and staff in order to be even more effective.
Congressional Oversight Initiative
In 2006, we launched the Congressional Oversight Initiative (COI) when we realized Congress needed help to become more effective at conducting oversight of the executive branch and to exercise its role in our democracy’s system of checks and balances.
This initiative’s goal isn’t to point fingers when Members of Congress fail to do their part, but to help provide resources, knowledge, and skills that congressional staff need to do their job more effectively.
Center for Defense Information
In 2012 we added the Center for Defense Information (CDI) to our ranks. We are still raising concerns about wasteful Pentagon spending programs like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, but are also now focusing on creating a more effective national security policy that protects our country and the service members fighting for it rather than one that lines the pockets of defense contractors.
In 2016 the Center for Effective Government (formerly known as OMB Watch) merged with POGO, bringing its expertise in regulatory policy and federal government processes. This expertise bolstered POGO’s role in fighting for a federal government that is transparent and accountable to the American people, not just to the politically powerful industry and other special interest lobbyists and donors.
The Constitution Project
In 2017, The Constitution Project (TCP) joined POGO, bringing a whole new range of expertise to the organization. The team seeks to safeguard our constitutional rights when the government exercises power in the name of national security and domestic policing, including ensuring our institutions serve as a check on that power.
Our investigations into waste, fraud, corruption, and abuse of power allow us to find deficiencies in federal government policies, programs, and projects. Much of our focus is where government and powerful private interests intersect, a nexus where corruption and abuse of power can thrive if oversight isn’t strong: pharmaceuticals, financial services, public procurement—particularly arms sales, the defense industry, and the growing private prison and detention industry—and natural resource extractive industries.
POGO’s investigators are experts in working with whistleblowers and other sources inside the government who come forward with information that we then verify using the Freedom of Information Act, interviews, and other fact-finding strategies. We publish these findings and release them to the media, Members of Congress and their constituents, executive branch agencies and offices, public interest groups, and our supporters.
How we choose our investigations:
- Availability of inside sources or unreported documents
- Capacity to make a unique contribution
- Opening for positive systemic change in the federal government
- Urgency for action
- Ability to broaden public awareness
Our public policy advocacy seeks to create a more effective, ethical, and accountable federal government by exploring and pushing for policy reforms that address the systemic issues uncovered by our investigations.
We also push for reforms aimed at fortifying the pillars of good government.
- Protecting the ability of government employees and contractors to come forward when they witness waste, fraud, or abuse of power in the federal government without fear of retaliation.
- Increasing transparency and access to government information vital to the public interest so that the American people can be confident the decisions being made are in their best interest.
- Ensuring internal government watchdog offices have the resources and independence to conduct proper oversight of the agencies they are charged with watching.
- Supporting our constitutional system of checks and balances to ensure our government is working properly and fairly for everyone.
- Solidifying an ethical code of conduct that government officials and political leaders adhere to.
Our reputation as an honest broker attracts current and former decision makers and other government insiders, and allows us to facilitate conversations and advocacy efforts among likely and unlikely allies across the political spectrum.
We know that neither political party has a monopoly on corrupt and abusive behavior in government, and neither has a monopoly on the solutions to these issues. That’s why nonpartisan isn’t just a word for us, but an essential value of the organization and its staff.