The Justice Department is worried that the office of the CIA's top watchdog could be left vacant for a year, or possibly longer.
The previous inspector general for the CIA resigned in late January after it was revealed that the spy agency hacked into computers used by Senate staffers right under his nose. The position is still empty. "Far too often, the process for selection and appointment of IG candidates takes too long," complained Michael E. Horowitz, the Inspector General of the Department of Justice, in a statement today to the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
"As of today, there are eight IG positions that remain vacant," he said, urging senators to confirm presidential appointees faster. "As of the end of this month, all of these IG positions, with the exception of the CIA IG position, will have been vacant for over 1 year."
The delay in getting approvals for inspector general positions makes the federal government toothless, Horowitz said, when it comes to issues of "fraud, waste, abuse, and misconduct" within an agency. Just this week, we saw evidence of IGs' power when a blistering report on the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) failure to keep potential bombs off of airplanes led to a swift reassigning of its head operator.
"I have directed TSA leadership to immediately revise its standard operating procedures for screening to address the specific vulnerabilities identified by the Inspector General’s testing," Jeh Johnson, the head of the Department of Homeland Security in response to the report. That swift response is the power of the position.
Yet as mentioned above, seven major federal agencies haven't had an in-house watchdog for over a year. Those agencies include the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which was drowning in scandals due to its operations in Cuba—before President Obama's announcement that the U.S. would normalize relations with the nation bumped them from the news cycle.
In subsequent interviews with Fusion, senior USAID officials still don't seem to know how to explain some of its practices, though its administrator offered his resignation the same morning Obama made the historic announcement. The agency alone has requested $22.3 billion for its 2016 budget—without current IG oversight.
Other agencies that have been operating without inspectors generals for more than a year:
- The Department of the Interior (requested 2016 budget: $13 billion)
- The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) (requested 2016 budget: $15.7 billion)
- The Denali Commission (requested 2016 budget: $10 million)
- The Department of Veterans Affairs (read: 2014's major VA scandals) (requested 2016 budget: $168.8 billion)
- The General Services Administration (requested 2016 budget: $2.2 billion)
- The Export-Import Bank of the United States (requested 2016 budget: $875 million)
Combined, all of the agencies mentioned above have a total estimated budget of $222.9 billion, with no overseers in sight.
Pizza party, anyone?
Note: the CIA's budget is classified, so that number is not included
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.