Lawmakers seek more experienced Afghan inspector general

The White House has not started floating candidates to lead the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction office, but lawmakers and aides already are devising a list of qualifications for the high-profile post vacated on Monday by Arnold Fields.

Fields, a former Marine Corps two-star general who had led the office since its creation in 2008, resigned amid a push by a bipartisan group of senators who have blasted him for nearly two years for incompetence and mismanagement.

As the SIGAR, Fields was the top government official charged with investigating waste, fraud, and abuse in Afghanistan. With pressure mounting for his resignation, Fields last week made major changes to his office, including firing two officials who oversaw investigations and audits.

But many lawmakers asserted that the problems came from the top and that Fields had little experience to prepare him for the enormous task.

"With billions of dollars being spent in Afghanistan, our country must have top-notch leadership at the agency responsible for rooting out the waste and fraud that can jeopardize our efforts," Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., a former auditor who led the charge against Fields on Capitol Hill, said in a statement on Monday night. "Mr. Fields simply was not the right person for this very difficult job."

In the House, Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., former chair of the State and Foreign Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, Tuesday called on Obama to move quickly to find a candidate for the job.

"I thank Arnold Fields for his service and call on President Obama to appoint expeditiously a successor who is qualified, aggressive, and dedicated to the job of protecting U.S. taxpayer funds and giving our mission in Afghanistan its greatest chance for success," said Lowey, who hopes to be the ranking member of the subcommittee this year.

Fields, who retired in 2004 as the commander of Marine Forces Europe, previously served as the inspector general at U.S. Central Command. But aides tracking the issue say they want to see someone with more auditing and investigations experience fill the post, which is not confirmed by the Senate but draws much scrutiny on Capitol Hill.

Lawmakers want a candidate with "less celebrity and more technical competence," said a Senate aide who has been tracking the issue.

With that in mind, the pool of qualified candidates could include longtime investigators and analysts at the Government Accountability Office or the Pentagon's Inspector General office.

Topping the next SIGAR's To Do list will be delivering tangible results to satisfy an increasingly impatient Congress, which created the office after a similar one on Iraq uncovered hundreds of millions of dollars in misspent reconstruction money.

McCaskill and other lawmakers have said there has been little to show and almost no return on investment since the office was created in 2008. Congress has approved more than $46 million for SIGAR, but the office has uncovered only $8 million in waste and fraud.

"That doesn't seem to be a good value for our taxpayer dollars," Sen. Scott Brown , R-Mass., said at a November hearing with Fields.

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