Republicans and Democrats agree: State needs a permanent IG

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The pending nomination of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., to be secretary of State has prompted a bipartisan movement on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to push President Obama to nominate an inspector general for the State Department.

That position has been vacant since Howard Krongard left in 2007, and the leadership at the IG’s office has been in the hands of Deputy Inspector General Harold Geisel.

“During your entire first term as president, you did not nominate anyone to serve in this critical position,” read a letter to Obama dated Jan. 24. “This failure evidences a clear disregard for the Inspector General Act and the will of Congress.” The letter notes that the vacancy at State is the longest of “any of the 73 inspector general positions across the government.”

It was signed by Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the panel’s chairman; Elijah Cummings, D-Md., its ranking member; Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the panel’s National Security Subcommittee; and John Tierney, D-Mass., ranking member of that subcommittee.

“In the context of the upcoming confirmation hearings for Sen. John Kerry as your nominee to become the next secretary of State, we are sure that the question of who you plan to nominate to serve as inspector general for the State Department will be a top priority for members of Congress on both sides of the aisle,” the lawmakers said.

The oversight panel held a hearing on May 10, 2012, highlighting the problems unfilled IG positions cause for agencies and overseers.

Jake Wiens, an investigator for the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight, which has a website page tracking vacant IG positions, testified, “POGO firmly believes that the effectiveness of an IG office can be diminished when that office does not have permanent leadership, especially when that vacancy exists for an extended period of time, as many of the current vacancies have. But we also acknowledge that IG vacancies can begin and continue for a variety reasons, some of which are problematic and some of which are completely appropriate. It is important to note that the negative aspects of an IG vacancy must be balanced against the need to identify highly qualified candidates and to vet those candidates thoroughly, a process which can -- and should -- take time.”

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