'Brusque' State IG denies making partisan decisions

A self-styled change agent, State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard admitted to lawmakers Wednesday that he tried to turn around his office in part through harsh confrontations with underperforming employees.

"I have been brusque and I have been shrill and I have been hard on people," he told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Current and former members of his staff have painted Krongard as a nightmare boss who humiliated career investigators and made employees fear coming to work. Some have accused Krongard of impeding investigations that might have embarrassed the Bush administration. And like other appointees trying to overhaul government agencies, Krongard has been under congressional scrutiny, fueled in part by staff discontent.

At Wednesday's committee hearing, Krongard acknowledged his lack of public sector experience caused problems in his handling to government employees. But Krongard, appointed in 2005, argued he is the victim of disgruntled underperformers who resisted change, including some officials he pushed out of the office. He said limited funds and low confidence in some staffers guided his decisions on investigations.

"I never impeded any investigation," he said. "Without getting into specifics ... suffice it to say there are many times when experience and capabilities, benefits to be achieved, likelihood of success, availability of other investigative bodies to do the same work, available resources ... and possibly conflicting parallel proceedings have to be weighed."

Krongard agreed with committee Republicans who faulted House Oversight and Goverment Reform Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., for publicizing what they called unsubstantiated charges. In interviews quoted in a Republican staff report, a number of Krongard's employees said they felt he blocked investigations to protect the administration, but none said they had evidence of his motives. Democrats, however, released their own report detailing a series of instances where Krongard, whatever his motives, made questionable decisions that were later criticized by his top staff and investigators at other agencies.

Waxman said Krongard stopped his investigators from assisting a Justice Department investigation into alleged weapons smuggling by security contractor Blackwater USA while not disclosing that his brother, former CIA Executive Director Alvin (Buzzy) Krongard, was on Blackwater Worldwide's advisory board. A Justice Department official said Krongard's actions "have certainly impacted the investigation," the Democrats' report notes.

Krongard said he delayed the investigation because his office was already cooperating on a separate, related probe into Blackwater and he feared conflicts between separate civil and criminal investigations. He said he did not believe his brother was on the company's board and that, in any case, that would not influence his decisions. But the committee, in response, released a Sept. 5 e-mail from Blackwater CEO Erik Prince to Buzzy Krongard and others. It states: "Thank you for accepting the invitation to be a member of the Blackwater Worldwide Advisory Board." After conferring with staff, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., told Howard Krongard that his brother, as of Wednesday's hearing, was among scheduled attendees at a Blackwater conference in Virginia.

After a recess, Krongard said he had confirmed his brother was, in fact, on the advisory board. Krongard then said he would immediately recuse himself from Blackwater-related matters. Late in the hearing, Democrats shifted the focus of their allegations, dropping references to political motives. "We're not questioning your motivation, we're questioning your competence," Waxman said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.