Weekly Columns

When former Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn served in Congress, he released an annual list of wasteful government spending. His ‘Wastebook’ outlined ridiculous projects taxpayer dollars funded. He was a one-man watchdog of taxpayer money. 

In federal agencies, this role belongs to the Inspectors General (IG). This position is the first line of defense against waste, fraud and abuse in Washington, saving the federal government billions of dollars each year. 

Unfortunately there are many IG vacancies that leave us vulnerable to abuse and waste in the federal government. While work continues in offices during a vacancy, it is important to have a dependable leader who has been trusted with the role of oversight. 

There are ten vacant IG positions. It is President Obama’s role to nominate an IG for seven of those vacancies: the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), The Department of the Interior, U.S. Agency for International Development, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, General Services Administration, Export-Import Bank and the CIA. Only two of those have pending nominations before the Senate. The other positions are filled by an agency appointment. 

The Department of the Interior has been without an IG for more than six years. VA has been without an IG for more than a year. Given the systemic failures that have plagued VA in recent years and a new law that Congress passed to address these problems, it’s vital that a permanent watchdog is in place to ensure these reforms are being carried out. 

Failing to fill IG positions is unacceptable. I am committed to reducing these vacancies. While reining in federal spending with the recent approval of a budget resolution, the Senate unanimously adopted my amendment to address these vacancies.  The Boozman amendment to the concurrent budget resolution puts the Senate on record and paves the way for future legislation to address these vacancies, while strengthening and reforming the IG community. 

In late March, members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee sent a letter to President Obama and agency leaders urging them to fill the vacant IG positions. These actions should put pressure on the President and the agencies to take action. 

Filling IG positions needs to be a priority. This is an important role for the President in creating an accountable government that works for the people and spends taxpayer dollars responsibly. 

It is my hope that recent action by my colleagues and I in the Senate will encourage the administration to make the necessary nominations to fill these vacancies. IGs enable efficient and effective oversight and we must provide those offices with the leaders they need to carry out that mission.