Congress calls on Kerry to appoint a State Department inspector general
The State Department and USAID haven’t had an inspector general for over five years, and a growing chorus of lawmakers in both parties want new Secretary of State John Kerry to do something about it. "As you begin your tenure, we would like to raise an issue essential to the proper functioning of the Department ...
The State Department and USAID haven’t had an inspector general for over five years, and a growing chorus of lawmakers in both parties want new Secretary of State John Kerry to do something about it.
"As you begin your tenure, we would like to raise an issue essential to the proper functioning of the Department of State. For more than five years, since January 16, 2008, the Department has lacked a presidentially-nominated, Senate-confirmed Inspector General." House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and ranking Democrat Eliot Engel (D-NY) wrote in a letter today to Kerry. "That gap of more than 1,840 days is the longest vacancy of any of the 73 Inspector General positions across the federal government. While this would be problematic under any circumstances, the repeated criticisms of the independence and effectiveness of that office by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) heighten the need for an appointment."
In 2011, the GAO issued a report criticizing the lack of a permanent inspector general at the State Department and the widespread use of foreign service officers to do inspections at embassies and consulates. The GAO’s criticisms date back to 2007.
"The appointment of management and Foreign Service officials to head the State OIG in an acting capacity for extended periods of time is not consistent with professional standards for independence," the GAO reported. "In addition, GAO reported that the use of Foreign Service officers at the ambassador level to lead OIG inspections resulted in, at a minimum, the appearance of independence impairment."
The House Foreign Affairs Committee leaders argued in their letter that a full-time, permanent inspector general is needed to assure Congress and the taxpayers that the State Department is doing all it can to minimize waste, fraud, and abuse. They drove home that point in a separate letter sent today to President Barack Obama, urging him to appoint someone to lead the inspector general offices at both State and USAID.
"Both of these inspector general offices monitor key elements of the U.S. government’s national security budget, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, and these leadership vacancies raise questions as to whether billions of dollars of programs are being properly overseen," Royce and Engel wrote.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee is not the only committee pressing the administration on this issue. On Jan. 24, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Subcommittee on National Security Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and ranking Democrat John Tierney (D-MA) wrote to Obama asking him to fill the State Department IG void.
"During your entire first term as President, you did not nominate anyone to serve in this critical position. This failure evidences a clear disregard for the Inspector General Act and the will of Congress," they wrote.
The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) has also been on the case, starting a letter writing campaign to ask ordinary Americans to petition their government to appoint a State Department IG.
"Did you know that President Obama went his entire first term without nominating an inspector general for the vacant job at the State Department? In fact, the State Department has gone more than five years without a permanent inspector general. The State Department opening is the longest running vacancy among agencies without inspectors general," the POGO plea for citizen activism reads. "Please take action and urge President Obama to nominate a strong and independent permanent State Department Inspector General today."
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin
More from Foreign Policy
Saudi-Iranian Détente Is a Wake-Up Call for America
The peace plan is a big deal—and it’s no accident that China brokered it.
The U.S.-Israel Relationship No Longer Makes Sense
If Israel and its supporters want the country to continue receiving U.S. largesse, they will need to come up with a new narrative.
Putin Is Trapped in the Sunk-Cost Fallacy of War
Moscow is grasping for meaning in a meaningless invasion.
How China’s Saudi-Iran Deal Can Serve U.S. Interests
And why there’s less to Beijing’s diplomatic breakthrough than meets the eye.