Dear Association Members and Friends,
I hope and trust that all of you are staying safe and well as we continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. I write this message to address issues of great importance to the community of Inspectors General.
Those of you who have been watching the news know that Senate-confirmed Inspectors General for the Intelligence Community and State Department were recently removed from their posts by the President. Acting Inspectors General for Defense, Transportation and Health and Human Services were also removed and replaced.
Historically, every President going back to Ronald Reagan has exercised their authority to remove one or more appointed Inspectors General, as granted by Section 3(b) of the IG Act of 1978. Many of the IG’s who were removed had previously criticized or had ongoing investigations of the administration. Nonetheless, such executive removals were then and are, at present, a lawful exercise of executive power under the IG Act.
Inspectors General are offices of public trust that are granted substantial powers to carry out their mission. For the IG community, words like integrity, independence, transparency and accountability are not simply buzzwords or catchy slogans. Rather, they comprise our core values. As your AIG President, my responsibilities have included not only protecting and representing those core values, but also carefully protecting the non-political nature of Inspectors General. In today’s hyper-partisan environment, I believe that independent Inspectors General and like-minded oversight professionals are the last bastions protecting good government and the rule of law. It is critically important for IG’s to stay above the fray and out of the political arena, but it is also our duty to do all we can to protect effective oversight by independent Inspectors General at all levels of government.
Recent events have reignited discussions of sensible reforms to the IG Act of 1978 that would do just that. Possible reforms include: 1) adding “for-cause” removal protection for Inspectors General; 2) making sure that individuals appointed to Inspector General posts are qualified and possess the necessary experience for the job; and 3) ensuring that vacant Inspector General positions are filled in a timely manner. The idea would be to increase independence and effective oversight while preserving the ability to remove Inspectors General when there is good cause to do so.
Everyone should know that we are well aware of recent events and their importance to us as IG’s. We have already begun and will continue to have discussions with the IG community about how best to approach this in the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, the best way to protect the IG profession is for us to keep doing our jobs independently and without regard to politics.
Stephen B. Street, Jr., AIG National President