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McCaskill Requests Oversight Review of POW/MIA Accounting Fellowship Program

Following concerns about oversight of ORISE fellowship program, Senator requests review


WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is continuing her effort to strengthen accountability in the Pentagon’s POW/MIA recovery efforts. Following a hearing that found mismanagement and a lack of oversight, McCaskill has requested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigate the oversight and cost of the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) fellowship program, which places fellows at many federal agencies, including the Joint Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command (JPAC).

JPAC, a component of the Department of Defense, relies heavily on ORISE fellows to accomplish its mission, but the level of oversight and costs associated with the fellowship program are unclear. The ORISE program is a Department of Energy (DOE) program managed under a contract held by the Oak Ridge Associated Universities, a non-profit corporation. The program came to McCaskill’s attention as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight, during the Subcommittee’s preparations for a hearing on POW/MIA accounting.

“The Subcommittee’s review of ORISE fellows at JPAC has raised concerns about the management and oversight of the ORISE fellowship program,” McCaskill wrote in her letter to GAO. “The Subcommittee has learned that the stipend for fellows varies wildly, and does not seem to be tied to any metrics or standards. Also, the overhead costs associated with the program appear to be quite high, varying from 14%-18%. In addition, although ORISE has requirements for admittance into the program, including holding a degree in a science, technology, engineering or math field and having received that degree in the past five years, it appears that these requirements are sometimes waived at the request of agencies. Finally, it is unclear which entity, DOE, ORAU or the employing agency, has oversight over the fellows while they are working for the federal agency.”

McCaskill requested that GAO’s review include an examination of the costs of the program, the circumstances under which federal agencies waive program requirements, the agencies responsible for oversight and management of fellows, the employment rights of fellows—including discrimination and whistleblower protections, the program’s pay scale, and whether agencies are using fellows as a substitute for hiring federal employees.

A copy of McCaskill’s letter can be found HERE.


Click HERE to read highlights of McCaskill’s fight for stronger accountability in Washington.