Holding the Government Accountable

Key Watchdog Posts Remain Unfilled Across Executive Branch

It's beginning to sound like a broken record.

A story published Monday in Federal Times (and available only in the print edition) is the latest of a number of articles to highlight the effort to press the Obama administration to fill numerous Inspector General (IG) vacancies throughout the government.

Despite longstanding concerns raised by POGO and several lawmakers, the Obama administration has not taken action to nominate candidates for many of these essential watchdog positions. And the most egregious example, by far, is at the State Department, where the Office of Inspector General has been without permanent leadership since January 2008.

Citing former State Department IG Clark Ervin, the Federal Times article discussed the importance of having a permanent, rather than an acting IG:

“The big, bold, sweeping, incisive and aggressive inquiry and analysis that characterizes the best OIGs [offices of inspector general] can only be undertaken under the leadership of an IG fully empowered by the imprimatur of Senate confirmation,” said Ervin. He added that serving as an Acting IG is “almost like walking around with a sign on your back that says ‘I am temporary, ignore me.’”

The article comes in the midst of a push by the State Department to prevent the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) from having jurisdiction over the Department’s activities in Iraq. Recent testimony from the Iraq Transition Coordinator for the State Department, Patricia Haslach, as recounted by the Stimson Center, evidences State’s push to prevent SIGIR from overseeing its operations.

State does “not read the responsibilities assigned to SIGIR in its founding statute as extending to the State Department’s operations in support of [its] diplomatic platform in Iraq,” according to Haslach.

But as loyal POGO readers know, State faces a huge challenge in overseeing the massive influx of private security contractors in Iraq following the military’s planned departure at the end of this year. If State succeeds at preventing SIGIR from overseeing its work in Iraq, the need for a permanent IG at State will be even more pressing.