Defense Dept. Inspector General Criticized as Worse than Useless

Monday, August 17, 2015
Jon Rymer

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has done his job well. John Sopko and his group have saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, referred companies and individuals that have committed contracting violations and pointed out many examples of government waste. No wonder then that the federal government would attempt to supplant SIGAR with an authority that doesn’t work nearly as well.


The Lead Inspector General for Overseas Contingency Operations, which comprises the inspectors general for the Department of Defense (DOD), the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), became the primary agency for investigating fraud and waste in Afghanistan thanks to a provision in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, inserted by Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) and Jim Webb (D-Virginia). This group, led by DOD Inspector General Jon Rymer, put together a report (pdf) for Congress that has many attractive photos and facts about the mission in Afghanistan, but information on only eight issues that require attention, and even those are provided with a notation that the “October 2015 Lead IG biannual report will provide details of these and other reports.”


In contrast, SIGAR’s quarterly report (pdf) details 21 audits, inspections, alert letters, and other reports, and savings of $214.7 million for U.S. taxpayers.


The Lead Inspector General for Overseas Contingency Operations’ reports are so lacking in content that Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies compares the group to Monty Python’s “Ministry of Silly Walks.”


“As for the military content, the report serves no known purpose and has almost no meaningful content,” Cordesman wrote. “The Lead Inspector General for Overseas Contingency Operations does not come close to dealing with any of the issues and problems raised in the Department of Defense’s semi-annual report on the war—the Report on Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan.” The inaugural version of this report was released to Congress on June 16.


Cordesman drew a scathing comparison between that report and SIGAR’s. “It will take you no more than 15 minutes of comparing the Lead Inspector General for Overseas Contingency Operation’s Quarterly Report to the report by SIGAR to see just how empty and totally vacuous the work by the Lead Inspector General for Overseas Contingency Operations really is.”


He added that the Lead IG report “reads more like a public relations exercise than anything else. It also follows a pattern within the Executive Branch of steadily reducing reporting that has any negative content…”


There is hope that SIGAR will once again become the lead agency for investigating where U.S. tax dollars are going in Afghanistan. The Project on Government Oversight has supported an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 that would ensure SIGAR isn’t crowded out.


This isn’t the first time the executive branch has tried to mess with SIGAR. Earlier this year, the State Department ordered SIGAR to cut its staff by 40%. When word reached the media, the State Department backed down.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Preventing a New Chapter of “Vacuous” Oversight (by Michael Smallberg and Mandy Smithberger, Project on Government Oversight)

The Afghan War and the Quarterly Report on Freedom’s Sentinel (by Anthony H. Cordesman, Center for Strategic and International Studies)

U.S. Cuts back its Watchdogs after Billions Lost and Billions More to be spent on Escalating Afghanistan War (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)

What Happened to $1.3 Billion of Taxpayer Money Sent Directly to U.S. Military Officers in Afghanistan? Pentagon won’t Say (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)


BeanCounter400 8 years ago
I agree with BlackandYellow's statements. I am just glad i was able to leave as this culture was bring forced on us. They are either too afraid to say what needs to be said or they are missing the skillset to derive what needs to be said like Sopko does. But for sure they focus too much on tabloid flash and too little on meaningful content. They brought in and created a whole tabloid production team just to jazz up reports. How is that proper stewardship of taxpayers dollars?
BlackandYellow 8 years ago
Great article but to be fair, this isnt about IG Rymer. He inherited a dysfunctional organization, he just cant realize the legacy is continuing under him. This is same organization that botched ZeroDarkThirty and USMC Audit Opinion efforts. Anyone else read the "report" issued by their Admin Investigation group? That isnt even an oversight report and is more a marketing effort for the community to join and use their product they are trying to build still. Definitely public relation based organization. Their monthly report states in part its purpose is to keep the media informed. I have never seen an IG state it takes actions to support the media.
TaxpayerTruth 8 years ago
This is no surprise. Senator Grassley has been calling out the follies of DoDIG for many years amd even more so in the past few years. The IG is surrounded by layers of incompetent selfserving staff. New IG comes in and is indoctrinated by the same staff to believing and acting on their bad opinions. Tracking their SWA efforts, it has been a window dressing for several years now. The COPSWA they publish is measured in pounds instead of substance. Taxpayers deserve better than what this organization provides
BeanCounter400 8 years ago
This is not shocking at all to us tenured IG staff. Years of smoke and mirrors finally catching up. These arent leaders, they are bobble head buffoons who can only focus on pretty colors and pictures and lack any ability to understand and produce substantive content. DIG Child amd his staff have little to any overaight experience. There is no viable risk areas defined, no challenges or connection to operations. We got ignored telling these amateurs what the reports and efforts should be about.

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