What do you call someone with all of the authority to hold public officials accountable, but none of the power required to enforce anything? An inspector general.
At the office of the Department of Defense Inspector General (DOD IG), a roster of 63 unfinished cases reveals how Pentagon offices have ignored or not completed, sometimes for several years, IG recommendations to take corrective “actions” for various degrees of Pentagon mismanagement, poor accounting and other legal concerns.
According to the DOD IG’s latest semiannual report to Congress, at the end of fiscal 2012 the types of “actions pending” on IG audits ranged from updating Defense Department security clearance guidance, some of which dated as far back as 1987, to accurately tabulating overtime hours at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, cancelling poorly-planned wind turbine projects in Alaska, and determining the legality of using military surveillance assets to fight wildfires in the United States.
The list reveals how the inspector general is trying to make the Pentagon a somewhat more efficient $600 billion-a-year behemoth. It also is a microscope into bureaucratic minutiae preventing it from happening. At DOD, the IG does not publish full reports until the corrective actions are completed, so the public has no way of knowing exactly what actions have been taken as long as the case remains “pending.”
The topics of pending IG reports range widely from organizational management to combat. After one July 2011 audit of Marine Corps spending in 2008 on the global war on terror, the inspector general called for the Marines to update their “Financial Management Standard Operating Procedure Manual,” which was by then four years old. One year later, the Department of the Navy, which includes the Marine Corps, said it needed more time.
-Kevin Baron, E-Ring, ForeignPolicy.com