Weekly Columns

Hardworking Arkansans are stretching their dollars, cutting back and reining in their budgets. Washington needs to do the same thing. I’ve worked to roll back spending, and I’m continuing to find additional avenues to save taxpayer dollars. That’s why I introduced legislation to make sure that federal Inspectors General (IGs) are on the job – identifying waste, fraud, and inefficiency. 

Inspectors General identified more than $93.9 billion in annual savings, according to the most recent report by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE). These watchdogs play a critical role in the oversight of government efficiency and effectiveness. They also investigate allegations of fraud and other illegal activities. IGs enable Congress to improve programs, conduct thorough oversight, and reduce waste.

Unfortunately the administration has allowed IG vacancies to stretch on for years. The State Department hasn’t had an IG since January 2008. President Obama allowed this vacancy to last 1,989 days – until June 2013 – before nominating a candidate to fill the position. Other federal agencies with missing watchdogs include the Department of Homeland Security. The Department of the Interior hasn’t had an IG since February 2009. Whether expanding surveillance or imposing new unauthorized programs, these agencies exercise their powers forcefully. That’s why having IGs in place makes us less vulnerable to abuse and waste than when the administration leaves the watchdog positions vacant. While IG office staffs continue to perform work during a vacancy, former Defense Department IG Joseph Schmitz has argued that office staff cannot be as effective or offer the same reassurances to whistleblowers as a permanent IG. 

The administration must nominate candidates to fill IG vacancies in a more timely manner. That’s why I introduced the Verifying Agency Conduct and Needs Through Inspectors General Act (VACANT Inspectors General Act), S. 1366. This bipartisan bill would require the nomination of a person to each IG position within 210 days of a vacancy, or the authority to fill the job would be transferred to Congress. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I have also highlighted the vacancy problem as our Committee reviews agency budgets, and I have pledged to work with both Republican and Democrat colleagues who share my concern on this issue. 

My legislation will encourage President Obama and future Presidents to make filling IG positions a priority. This is a commonsense approach to making sure tax dollars are spent in a responsible manner.