Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., underscored the need for permanent leadership to fully “promote economical, efficient, and effective administration and operation of the government.”
A bipartisan pair of senators is calling on President Biden to nominate individuals for six watchdog positions that don’t have permanent leadership and are crucial to helping the government root out waste, fraud and abuse.
These positions are the inspectors general for the Treasury and State departments, U.S. Agency for International Development, National Security Agency and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, as well as the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program. As Government Executive has previously reported, vacancies for IGs have been an issue that’s spanned multiple administrations.
“In the absence of permanent leadership, IG offices are less able to fulfill their statutory mandate to promote economical, efficient and effective administration and operation of the government,” wrote Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and a long-time advocate for government oversight, and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s panel on Emerging Threats and Spending Oversight, in a letter to Biden on Wednesday.
Citing a report from the Congressional Research Service, the lawmakers said: “Some observers have argued that acting IGs are inherently, or may be perceived as, less independent or effective compared to permanent IGs for various reasons, including a reduced ability to set long-term strategies and priorities, and incentives not to report problems in agency operations or resist political pressure from agency heads—particularly for those seeking the permanent position.”
The lack of a permanent Treasury IG is concerning specifically because of challenges the department faces with cyber threats, anti-money-laundering, terrorist financing and CARES Act spending, according to the senators. This position and the State IG, whose office is currently conducting oversight of the billions of dollars in assistance the United States has sent to Ukraine, have each been vacant for over 1,000 days and haven’t had candidates yet.
The USAID IG office is also working on Ukraine oversight and while there was a nominee during the last session of Congress (Nicole Angarella, then-USAID IG general counsel, now acting deputy IG performing the duties of the IG), Biden has yet to renominate her.
Grassley and Hassan noted that reforms enacted with the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act require the president to communicate to Congress why IG nominations haven’t been made and the target date for them. They pledged that if and when Biden were to nominate the six watchdogs, they would encourage their respective leadership to make these confirmations a priority and oppose any efforts to delay the process.
The White House did not immediately respond for comment on the letter.
The Federal Communications Commission IG office is also missing permanent leadership, but there is a nominee: Fara Damelin, currently chief of staff for the Housing and Urban Development IG. The AmeriCorps IG job just became vacant this month.
The Library of Congress, Defense Intelligence Agency and Government Publishing Office also have IG jobs vacant, but candidates for those positions are appointed by the head of the agency and are not subject to presidential nomination and Senate confirmation.