WASHINGTON – Today, incoming Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Ranking Member Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) with their Committee colleagues sent a bipartisan letter urging President Obama to quickly nominate candidates to fill vacant Inspector General positions at six major federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security.
"The value of the Inspectors General goes beyond dollars; these offices also help reveal and prosecute wrongdoing, and promote the integrity of government. They provide invaluable support to Congressional budgeting and oversight work. Inspectors General are an essential component of government oversight," the Senators wrote. "Inspectors General occupy a unique role – tasked with 'speaking truth to power' and with dual reporting obligations to their agency head and to Congress. A sustained absence of permanent leadership is not healthy for any office – particularly one entrusted with as important and challenging a mission as an Office of Inspector General."
Senators Carper and Coburn expect the Administration to continue its commitment to limiting vacancies at important positions throughout the federal government by quickly nominating qualified and experienced individuals to fill the Inspectors General vacancies. The Senate also has an important responsibility to consider the Administration's nominees for these critical jobs in the Executive branch in a thorough, but timely manner.
Other HSGAC Committee Senators joined Sens. Carper and Coburn on the letter, which included: Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Claire McCaskill ( D-Mo.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.).
A full copy of the letter follows:
Dear Mr. President,
We write to urge you to act swiftly to fill vacant Inspector General positions at some of the nation's key agencies.
As you know, Congress established the Inspector General positions in 1978 as powerful and independent offices to promote the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of federal departments and agencies. The investigations and reports of these Inspectors General help the government save money, promote transparency and combat wrongdoing.
Every year, Inspectors General identify billions of dollars in potential savings, including savings from improved management practices and fines and repayments resulting from investigations. The value of the Inspectors General goes beyond dollars; these offices also help reveal and prosecute wrongdoing, and promote the integrity of government. They provide invaluable support to Congressional budgeting and oversight work. Inspectors General are an essential component of government oversight.
According to the Council on Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE), there are currently six vacant presidentially appointed Inspector General positions across the government. Five of these are at large Cabinet-level agencies – the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Interior, Labor, and State. The sixth vacancy is at the Agency for International Development.
The vacancy at the DHS Office of Inspector General is extremely troubling, given that the agency faces many management and budget challenges, and the IG's office itself faces allegations of misconduct. We are also particularly concerned about the office of Inspector General at the State Department, which has lacked a permanent leader since January 2008.
We recognize that acting Inspectors General and career staff carry on the work of their offices during a vacancy, often ably so. Nevertheless, a sustained absence of permanent leadership is not healthy for any office – particularly one entrusted with as important and challenging a mission as an Office of Inspector General. Inspectors General occupy a unique role – tasked with "speaking truth to power" and with dual reporting obligations to their agency head and to Congress. Those unique pressures may be especially challenging for an acting Inspector General, serving without the endorsement of Presidential selection and Senate confirmation.
Accordingly, we urge you to quickly appoint qualified, experienced individuals to fill these vacancies. In turn, we commit to working with our colleagues to act promptly on the nominations.