tv Role of Inspectors General Congress CSPAN June 14, 2018 1:52am-3:44am EDT
a panel of current and former inspectors generals discussed the role in government at an event hosted by the levin center. michael horowitz, the inspector general of the justice department delivered opening remarks. from the council on foreign relations in washington dc, this is three hours. good morning. i am bob ackerman professor and law director of levin center at
wayne state university law school, thank you for joining us today. those of you who are here in person in our nations capital, and those of you who may be watching on life feed. thank you for joining us in our discussion of the role of inspector general in congressional oversight. the levin center was established in march, 2015. one of the legacy of senator carl levin to working -- by working to strengthen the integrity, transparency and accountability of public and private institutions through the promotion and support of bipartisan fact-based legislative oversight, to advance good governance, particularly with respect to legislative process, and to promote civil discourse on current issues of public policy. we seek to do this through academic programming, training, scholarship, and symposiums such as this one. the inspector general act established 40 years ago, created the office of inspector general in 12 federal agencies. over the years, that number has grown to 73.
about half of these are appointed by the president, and require senate confirmation. about half were appointed by agency heads, the so-called designated federal entities. the mission of inspectors general is to conduct audits and investigations, of agency programs and recommend ways to promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness. and to prevent fraud and abuse. ids are designated by law to be independent, they report not only to the agency, but also directly to congress with no agency filter or review. all ig's must be -- demonstrated ability in accounting, auditing financial analysis, law, management analysis, public administration, or investigations. while ig's serve, the pleasure of the president, they cannot be removed without giving congress 30 days written notice. within the agency, the ig
reports to the head of the agency and is supervised by no one else. ig's has full discretion to undertake any audit or investigation they deem appropriate or necessary , but for a few exceptions of national security, protecting criminal investigations, and affecting the economy. ig's have direct access to all records and information in an agency, and can issue subpoenas outside the agency in -- for taking testimony. today, we focus on the relationship between ig's and congress, and the important role ig has in it oversight. they can request ig's to investigate specific issues and congress can use the work ig initiates to press for further information and reforms and to hold agency heads accountable. ig's are an important tool for congress, and the question today is whether congress is adequately using ig's and whether ig's are developing and maintaining beneficial
relationships with congress. the chair of the levin center, former senator carl levin, had 36 years of experience with the ig act as michigan's longest serving u.s. senator. for each of his 36 years, he is a member of the homeland security and governmental affairs community with his jurisdiction over the ig act. he also chaired both of the armed services committee, and several subcommittees on homeland security and governmental affairs. including the powerful permanent subcommittee on investigations known as psi. he is deeply and universally respected for his commitment to bipartisan fact-based oversight, one of the major areas of interest of the levin center. i am honored and happy to introduce senator carl levin. [ applause ] thank you so much for the introduction, for your great work at wayne law and the levin
center. and thank you for joining us this morning. welcome. it is a real pleasure for me to be here on behalf of the levin center, wayne law school to help honor through this symposium, the 40th anniversary of the inspector general act. as bob mentioned, 1978, congress and president carter had a visionary good sense to enact the inspector general act, which is a brilliant piece of legislation. during the 36 years that i served in the senate, i had the good fortune of being able to routinely rely on the inspectors general to tell us the facts and to identify areas where government could work more effectively, efficiently, wisely
, and we did that and they did that for all of the years that i was there for about one year before i got there, and all of the years since. each year, the ig's issues hundreds of reports and make thousands of recommendations for improvements in the way government should operate. not all of those recommendations are adopted by the agencies. but when they are, the results are dramatic. the counsel of the inspectors general and integrity and efficiency, reports that in 2012 through 2016, $88 billion recovered from ig investigations. that is in five years, and it is estimated that ig's estimated that there is another hundred $38 billion in potential
savings during that period. just last week, the washington post had an article on the dramatic increase in the specialty drug prices. they are in the article was this statement. quote the inspector general for hhs, released a report this week that found that although medicare's prescription drug program was paying for 17% fewer prescriptions over a five-year period, the amount that it was paying had increased by 62%. after rebates. now, that sentence struck me as an example of exactly what we expect and what we need from inspectors general. now -- nonpartisan, hard-
hitting facts, about how our federal programs are or are not working. it is also critical in this time that the inspectors general play a check and balance role, particularly when the executive branch is asserting so much power. they are part of the executive branch, as you all know. is a very complex situation and although they are a part of that branch, they are a significant part of the constitutional check and balance on power. the role of ig's in congressional oversight becomes even more important as congress becomes more partisan. over the past years, scholars, experts, political scientists, and many of us who have been involved in congress for decades, have lamented the
quantity and quality of congressional oversight. the quantity being too small, and the quality being too often tainted by bipartisanship -- partisanship. the work of the ig's is even more critical as the public searches for the reliable and trustworthy factfinder. the stabilizing force, the ballast in a storm of partisanship. so the timing of this symposium could not be more relevant. how are the ig's weathering these partisan times? how do they, to paraphrase, keep their heads while so many about them seem to be losing theirs? those questions and many others will be tackled by our panelist today.
one person, who is extraordinarily well situated to give us his thoughts and to help us set the stage for the two panels that we will hear from, has received particular attention from congress and the press lately. that is about every day and every hour i'm sure a lot more attention than he particularly craves. but that is the chair of the council of the inspectors general on integrity and efficiency. and he is also the current inspector general of the department of justice. that is our special guest michael horowitz. mr. horwitz has -- is testifying next week before the house committee, on oversight and government reform. his investigation into the conduct of the fbi during the last election. you can follow what he is doing
almost every day in the media, if you want to know where michael is, just open up the newspaper, find some other way because he is there and his schedule is always in public interest. he is reporting his findings at a time of extremely intense partisanship. mr. horwitz has the job of speaking truth to power. all ig's has that same responsibility, for mr. horwitz and it is exercised by him in time of put -- intense political and public focus on his work. his resume demonstrates that he is more than able to take on this task. he was appointed the department of justice ig in 2012 by president obama after
previously working as a defense attorney in the private sector. previously, as a prosecutor in the always quite southern district of new york and is a top official in the criminal division of the department of justice. in 2003, president george w. bush named him to the u.s. sentencing commission where he served for five years. he has been referred to as unflappable, nonpartisan, and thorough. qualities valued in any inspector general. he is here today to share his views on the current role of the ig's and the area of congressional oversight and he will be doing this before we hear from our two panels. we are very grateful that michael could join with us today and it is a special treat for
us to be able to have him share his thoughts with you. he has also said that he will take some questions after his remarks that with a very minor caveat. don't ask him questions about pending investigations. because he obviously cannot answer those. thank you michael for being with us today, it is all yours. [ applause ] >> thank you for that senator levin. hopefully people say the same kind things in 48 hours. we will see. but it is certainly an important time and momentous time for the ig community and i want to acknowledge how important senator levin has been to the development of the ig community. it has not been mentioned that
he was the cosponsor in 1988 of amendments that ultimately created my office. we were not part of the original 12 offices in 1978, we were created after. and he was a cosponsor of the 2008 ig reformat. it is 10 years old and it was created through his good work and efforts. he has played a very important role in the development of the ig community. he also was the author of the whistleblower protection act of 1989. and, as anybody who watches the ig community knows, whistleblowers are the lifeblood of our work and that was landmark legislation that has been built upon since 1989, but incredibly important for our work and the work that we do.
as has been mentioned, this is the 40th anniversary of the ig act of 1978 and i could not agree more with what senator levin said about the importance of that legislation, there were many post-watergate reform pieces of legislation and i think the ig act has been one of the most important enduring and successful, if i'm allowed to say that, i'm a little biased. pieces of legislation in the last 40 years, and the numbers show it. as has been pointed out, returns, findings for the taxpayer of the public. they have been substantial well beyond what our budgets are. but also, our findings about good governance issues. there are no monetary -- no number you can put on that. the department of justice, we have a fair amount of findings of monetary issues, but reports
like our fast and furious report, our oversight of the fbi's counterintelligence parties, tomorrow's report, there is not a dollar value you can put on those and yet what we all try to do as a community of 73 ig's is allow the public to know that there are watchdogs out there based in the executive branch that are watching over our agencies and it agencies that we oversee, and are there to be the eyes for the public at large. that is who we work for. it is very important as we do our jobs, and i know we will be talked about today, the challenge as independent watchdogs to not be rogue actors. we are not untethered, we are not -- we have a law in the ig act. one of the challenges that we face as ig's , and i know my
colleagues will be discussing, is the tension and push and pull between understanding where we sit in the constitutional scheme of government which is within the executive branch, but our independence of the officials in our agency. my office in particular has been very fortunate in our 30 years of existence given our creation in 1989, to have attorneys general of both parties, both administrations, multiple administrations, all parties through the 30 years that respected our independence and understood that in an organization of 100,000+ justice department employees, agents, prosecutors, other officials. that any inspector general is the one person that the attorney general can tell what
to do. that is really a remarkable system that has been set up, and it works because of an understanding and appreciation of the people involved. the legislation is critical, we often as we sit together, point to the legislation and it guides what we do because we are rule and law based, we are fact based. it also requires people to act in good faith with one another, as we are doing that work. that is true for the leadership of our agencies, and it is also true of our relationships with congress. having chairs, ranking members, members of committees, understand where we sit, what our responsibilities are under the act, and what role we play, and what we don't play. in that system, that is very important. we are not policymakers, we
have no role in deciding policy. it doesn't matter to us, and it shouldn't matter to us whether the policy is a or b. even if they are completely at opposite ends of the spectrum. what matters to us is, are those programs run effectively, efficiently, they managed properly, are there ways for fraud abuse, or misconduct associated? that is what you're there to do. one of the challenges in my six years is recognizing and appreciating what reviews are appropriate for us to do and what reviews are really policy fights that we should not be, and are not the right place to be in the middle of those fights. we are there to be fact-based, to find what occurred to be watchdogs, to support independence, transparency, accountability, oversight, but not to be policymakers. that is the attention that has
existed since the act came into being. one of the reasons we were not created in 1978 as part of the first ig offices is because of that tension. the justice department was concerned about having an independent watchdog watching over its criminal case load. that was in fact and continues to be a tension that we face and that i face and i think all ig's face in their own agencies. these are very important, as the discussion goes on about keeping our eyes and thoughts on where in the spectrum, as partisanship increases, where we fall as ig's and has that changed over the last 40 years? and i look forward to hearing your thoughts and your ideas, happy to take questions about that. i want to also just mentioned before concluding that senator
levin played one other important role in my career, which was indirect. in his appointment for his effort to get jim robinson, your former dean appointed as the assistant attorney general in the criminal division because that is when i came to washington in 1999, to work for jim robinson as his deputy assistant attorney general and senator levin was one of his main sponsors for that position. and i had the opportunity to be mentored by a real giant in the law, and someone who i know loved wednesday, loved his time here. it is great honor to be here and affiliated and speaking at this event. inc. you for giving me a few moments to speak, i will be happy to take some questions. i'll be happy to take some questions with the caveat that i cannot break the news here. >> if you have a question, raise your hand and i will come
over. i promise, this is it purely institutional question. i think we all agree that the drg -- geo j -- doj should carry out the role. there has been regular news reports of what house efforts to politicize doj, which -- whether it be with the at&t merger or even the president quote that he has an absolute right to do what he wants with the doj. the solution for decades, since nixon, has been doj policy, which has been current since 2009. the white house is policy which exist now authored by don mcgann to prevent communication between doj and the white house on law enforcement issues. has the ig consider looking at those policies and how doj is tearing them out to protect doj's independence? >> so, very important issue
about the contact on criminal matters between the justice department and the white house. one thing i want to correct or mention in terms of the question, it is not improper to have the contacts. the memo provides a contact has to be from the white house counsel to the deputies office. it is not as if the white house of the president cannot have that contact. it is what cannot contact b. and i think one of the things that is important for purposes of the ig's and communication and discussion is , in that regard, one is we are not a substitute for congressional oversight. and oversight generally, whether it is by the press, or other institutions of government, as senator levin
said in the constitutional system, we are not a substitute for it, and so one of the things i think is important as we go forward, i know my fellow ig's do as well, we get letters all the time for members of congress, and the public. look at this, look at that . first of all, we have limited resources and budgets to do our work, but also, not all of those fall within our jurisdiction. one of the challenges for us in these kinds of areas, is we have limited jurisdiction under the ig act. i could look at, as you suggested, how is the justice department handling that? a lot of the letters that i get involve questions or news stories or the result of news stories which is in the justice department refused to provide the following information, but the prior white house or white houses tried to get it. we don't have authority over agencies outside the justice
department, including the executive office of president. and that was true and indicative of that is our jury report, the white house did not agree to provide information to us, we expected that because prior white house is had done the same, and so you could look at some of those issues from one side of it, but again, i think one of the things to keep in mind is that it is important that we assess what our work should be. it is what are we looking at, what is the issue we are looking at. is it that the justice department follows its policy, or is it as it is often been, what was the white house asking the justice department to do? and those kind of requests have come in my six years, crossed both administrations in terms of asks and i think that is
frankly one of the challenges as we wait. i don't have an easy answer for you on that, but that is to give you an idea, as we talk about these issues today, we are thinking about it and frankly, just so you know from other news reports, they are getting those kinds of requests as well. >> my name is elaine middleton, i am an attorney in private practice, and i went to michigan law school, i hope that is okay. [ laughter ] very briefly, i came here today to see senator levin because -- i have so much respect for him. you mentioned the whistleblower protection act and one of the amendments was based on my own experience, and i was on good
morning america with senator levin and i just admired him so much, and we definitely miss him here in washington dc. in general, i have followed the ig for a long time. i will ask a question about the hud ig but it could apply to any agency. i know you're not a hud. i am working on a case, or have been, a block grant fund. and they had to do oversight, and the whole thing says you don't do oversight, you give the money and don't worry about what happens. it seems to be the only oversight is that the inspector general. but most of those reports, as i say, 10 years after the fact, and typically will say something like don't do that again. or corrective action of write a report or get a better plan for the next time. i just think it is totally ineffective to me, and i don't know if a follow-up is a follow-
up basically. >> great question and i'm not the hud ig, but we have similar grant experience and oversight authority at the justice department. we give out several billion dollars in grants every year, not as much as hud, but some of them are block grants, and one of the things we do, in fact the largest part of my office is my audit staff, and as people obviously see our high-profile work but do not realize that my office puts out 80 audits per year, many of them in the grant area. what we try to do in that space is not only do timely audits, although frankly one of the challenges is we as ig's do audits obviously after the money has been given out and up -- after the money has been spent. we are not there proactively, this goes to my earlier point, we are not there managing the
grant. that is the responsibility of the agency. we are doing oversight after the grant and after the money has been spent. but, one of the things we try to do is do timely reports of oversights so that overseeing the grants so the agencies know what to do, but this goes to the topic of conversation, the importance of congressional oversight. ultimately it is congress appropriating the money and giving out the grant. in many instances, what we hear and have with the agency we oversee, in terms of the justice department is they have been appropriated the money by congress and congress is saying giving out this crime victims fund money. give out these grants, give out this money, and the challenge for us as oversight authorities is making sure it is being done wisely, managed appropriately or not. one of the things we are trying to do as a community -- and i'm very proud of what we are doing
. pull the community together to talk about and think about these issues because grants are such an important area. we put out this year for the first time a capstone report from the council inspectors general on the top management performance challenges facing the federal government. grant is one of the seven challenges identified in that report, which means multiple ig's said they were facing that as a challenge. the other thing we are doing is we launched oversight.gov on october 1 of last year which houses the reports of all 73 federal inspectors general, so if you want to go to one-stop shopping on what ig's are doing, you could go to oversight.gov, type in block grants and see all of the reports that ig's put out on it. one of the things we're working with congress to do, and i'm hoping this week or next week that we see appropriations bills moving through my that would allow funding to expand
oversight.gov to include open recommendation. because, i think one of the most important parts of our job is to be transparent and publicized our work and one of the things i have learned in six years as ig, is if we put out a report and no one follows it, whether it is the press or congress, other watchdog groups , private organizations. it could sit on the shelf and there is not a lot of pressure to take action. one of the things we are trying to do with oversight.gov, we can build the open recommendation webs page, to the public that will be greater transparency around what recommendations are open, and which ones have not been acted on. >> i believe we are going to conclude question and answer for mr. horowitz at this time, thank you. plus mike -- [ applause ]
>> thank you so much for all of your work and for being here. before i introduce our moderator for the first panel, i just want to share a few thank you's with you, the person who really organized and is the driving force of this symposium is linda goodstein's who is either my staff director for my own committee staff director or chief of staff in my office for more than two decades. i just want to give a special thanks to linda the status in the back of the room. [ applause ] her codirector alisa being of the 11 center of washington operation, she is also with us today. thank you for all of the great work you do. now, let me introduce a moderator for our first panel,
she will introduce the members of the panel. eleanor hill served as the ig for the department of defense, with great distinction. she conducted that office with fairness and integrity and honesty. she served as the dod ig for five years before that, she was the staff director for senator sam nunn on the permanent subcommittee on investigations. after her service as the dod ig, she was a staff director of the house and senate intelligence committees joined in korea on the 9/11 terrorist attacks. and her appointment is that staff director of the joint committee jennifer flex, a huge respect, which people on the
hill for eleanor hill. she is currently in private practice in washington dc at the law firm of king and spalding, she is on the advisory committee at 11 center and away university, we are very grateful for that. let me introduce to all of you the moderator of our first panel, eleanor hill. [ applause ] >> thank you senator levin. i had the privilege of learning congressional oversight from sam nunn and carl levin. sam nunn was chairman when i came to washington to work at psi emma which you have heard about, and we have a lot of psi alumni here today. at that point, senator nunn was chairman and ranking member, and senator levin, as i'm sure you would imagine, was one of
our most active and involved and engaged member of psi for as long as i can remember. and he did a tremendous job, as did sam nunn and so i learned from the best in terms of congressional oversight. i am very happy to be here today to moderate this panel because as you have heard, i spent a great deal of my career either doing congressional oversight, i also did a prosecution before that, but investigations, congressional oversight, and as an ig at the department of defense. so i, as you can imagine, am a firm believer in the importance of oversight, both by congress and by ig's. the topics we are about to talk about our very dear to me, and i cannot think of a more important issue given the tenure of the times these days,
for us to be looking at. so let me just tell you a little bit about our panel. we are very fortunate, on this panel because we are here to talk about the role of ig's and congressional oversight, and we have a panel that really will be able to address that topic from both perspectives, from the perspective of congress, and the perspective of ig's. we have with us to current congressional staffers, oversight staffers, and we have three former congressional oversight staffers. we have two current ig's and two former ig's. and three of our participants speak from both perspectives since they served both as congressional oversight staffers and ig's. we have the whole range of expertise and experience with this panel. as for format, each of our panelists will give some brief remarks. i will do that in
alphabetical order. and then, we will have questions. i may have a few questions and then we are certainly going to welcome any questions that any of you in the audience may have. so with that, let me give you a lit -- little bit more detail onto who will be speaking to you here this morning. and again, alphabetically, i will go through the list, we have david buckley. he is managing director in kpmg federal practice where he specializes in investigations, forensic application, and risk mitigation strategies for business operations. he is a former inspector general at the central intelligence agency, and he also served in the ig offices at both the department of the treasury, and the department of defense. and, as a law enforcement professional in the u.s. air force office of special investigation.
in congress, he served as the minority staff director of the house, permanent select committee on intelligence, and as the chief investigator on the senate's permanent subcommittee on investigations more commonly known as psi. and i will say, i was extremely lucky to have dave as a colleague both during my time at psi, and during my time as the ig of defense. i can tell you, he is outstanding. we also have kathy buller, she has served as the ig of the peace corps since 2008. prior to that, she has served for 32 years within the ig community. and the usa id ig, she served as a deputy legal counsel, and the assistant ig for resource management. she later served as the chief counsel to the ig for the discussion of security administration prior to becoming the peace corps ig.
she is the chair of the legislation committee and former cochair of the inspections and evaluations committee for the council of ig for integrity and efficiency. she serves as the senior investigative counsel for oversight and whistleblower policy for the chairman of senate judiciary committee. senator to charles grassley. to lisa graduated from yale law school in 2010, and she worked as an associate attorney gibson dunn and crutcher. her focus in the senate is on policies designed to strengthen congressional oversight and on whistleblower policy. which, as many of you know, it is an area of huge focus for senator to grassley for many years. and she also focuses on conducting investigations on waste fraud abuse on the federal law enforcement.
jonathan square dany is chief policy counsel for the house committee on oversight and government reform. he joined that committee in 2009, as many of you know, that committee has traditionally and continues to be very focused on oversight and investigation. john has also worked on several issues, specifically affecting ig's and the ig community including the inspector general empowerment act of 2016. last in alphabetical order, but certainly not -- not least is john sopko. who, since 2012, has been the special inspector general for afghanistan reconstruction. john also has more than 30 years of experience as a prosecutor, a congressional investigative counsel, and a senior government advisor. he came from the law firm of
akin gump where he has been a partner since 2009. john also worked on capitol hill for over 20 years on the staff of the house committee on energy and commerce. the house select committee on homeland security, and the senate permanent subcommittee on investigations. and i was also very fortunate to work closely with john on many congressional investigations during my time and our years together at psi in the senate. so, with that and without further ado, i will turn to our panel for their opening remarks . mr. buckley? i think you are first at the podium. >> thank you very much eleanor, senator levin, it is a pleasure to see you again. linda, bob, and the staff of the levinson that, thank you for holding this important
event today. as you heard, i spent decades in government, most of my time in government was in an oversight capacity, both on the hill and inside the executive branch. i will specifically talk about becoming -- because you have a lot of ig's this morning, the time at the central intelligence agency because i think it will give you a little bit of perspective, little difference between what a 1978 ig authority has with relationships with congress versus an intelligence community inspector general. as mike horowitz said, we are bound by law. that is a good thing. our authorities are in the statute, and our limitations are broadly in the statute as well. as the central intelligence agency, the law really died our relationship with congress -- guide our relationship with congress and the director of
cia, but and specifically with congress to the to intelligence authorizing committee to the house and senate intelligence committees. while i found that to be a keen frustration for many other committees, some members and a lot of stuff, and a huge frustration for the media. really, the thing that frustrated me the most was that we had all sorts of folks that were extraordinarily interested in operations and what was going on inside the cia, we had folks in both houses who are cleared with security clearances. they were just were not cleared by the central intelligence agency. even if they had a security clearance, we really only could answer questions to the hill. and occasionally, the defense appropriators because the intelligence committee funding comes from the defense appropriations act. principally, our relationship
was with those committees. we constantly got letters of request for information from other committees, other members, phone calls from members directly to the inspector general seeking information. fortunately or unfortunately, we referred all of those external parties on the hill over to either the house or senate intelligence committee. they were the broker for that relationship. whether judiciary or defense, authorizer's or foreign affairs, we always went back through the senate or house. while what might have been frustrating, certainly the members of the chairman of the house and senate intelligence committees, certainly respected the fact that we were respecting their unique statutory authorities and relationship with the inspector general, they were also -- they took on the mantle of having to manage
the relationship among the members in the senate and house and took the monkey off of my back and off of the agency's back. ig's are not immune from pressure whether it is coming from the director or someone inside an organization the itself, or quite frankly from members of the house or senate. while oversight is the appropriate approach to the relationship, people obviously have their own agendas. regardless of party, there could be political or personal agendas that we as an inspector general, i wish mike was still here, but maybe the panel numbers can talk about this. we talk about statutory independence of the inspector general.
we are not immune to influence, you have to be influenced by fact and perspective, but it is the independent objective decision-making of the inspector general that at the end of the day, that is the responsibility. i guess my point is that when you have folks asking for specific oversight of specific events, or the case of the cia, we were constantly bombarded with ideas for oversight, whether it came from the director, deputy director, general counsel, or some other leader inside the agency, but also members and staff from the hill. the ig has to take those request and decide, as michael said, which one should be, and how do you prioritize that oversight, whether it is an audit inspection or
investigation, how do you prioritize your resources against those request? and quite frankly, when it came to the oversight of the central intelligence agency, i used a risk-based approach, what is senator levin talked about the effectiveness of operations. that was job one for me, economy efficiency, i flipped that. we need effective national security apparatus, effective intelligence operations, and while efficiency and economy is important, you want the effective intelligence operation, the effective covert action, not that we are not worried about money, but i did not question whether or not the cia should have paid an asset $50,000 or $30,000. that was not part of my mission step. was that operation effective, was the much larger question for the taxpayer and for the
congress. have about five minutes each, when it comes to independence of the office, it is the ig that walks that razor blade and the ig has to answer to him or herself and look in the mirror every day and not be blown by political winds or the fact that you have an upset member of congress who wants something done. congress has levers as well. they have letters, chairman letters, that is different than a staff or a calling. and it is more powerful when you have a matter that is put into the legislation, into the intelligence operation like -- that is a matter of law, that will get done. i am happy to answer questions when we go to the q and a mama but i just wanted to set the stage as far as the difference between the inspectors general and the title v ig. thank you. [ applause ]
>> thank you dave. my years, as senator levin mentioned, my year and a half as staff director of the 9/11 inquiry brings back comments and memories of dealing with the intelligence community on oversight. as an ig and -- ig dod as well, we ran into this. the oversight of the 9/11 issues , with the intelligence committees, i think the most difficult area to do oversight is a black and the secrecy of the intelligence community. on top of all the usual resistance, you have and the issues you come into, you're dealing with highly sensitive and in some cases black programs and it is very hard to do. it is a tough job. with that, why don't all of our
panelists come up and kathy is the next speaker i think. >> good morning. i plan to talk with you a little bit about how the legislation committee works and how we interact with congress and our role. everybody understands, i think the importance of all of the tools that congress has given us . the independence that acts as information, access to the head of the agency, but in my opinion, the most effective tool that was given to us was the ability to report directly to congress. that has allowed us a lot of flexibility, i think, that we normally would not have as a special executive branch employee. in 2008, congress created the sheet as part of cd, the
function, itunified the ig's into a community and effectiveness and independence abilities more greater than it had been as individual ig's. we kind of parlayed that into our dealings in congress, takes us to sin city, she was the committee chair before me and i inherited a lot of great work from her when i took over, so thank you peg. one of the things we do as an legislation committee is to try to make sure that legislation that congress is considering will be what they are intending to do. the effect will be what they are intending to do. as ig's, we interact into -- regularly with committees. staffers of holger and hs cac know what ig's do, there is no
problem there. all ig's has oversight committees of their own, mine in particular, foreign affairs and foreign relations that you have to deal with also. and that does not necessarily good to understand what and ig does. they are legislating for the agency and sometimes the legislation that they pass inadvertently impacts some of the ig authorities. that is a problem that people need to be made aware of. as in the legislation committee, what we often do is we look at pending legislation or proposed legislation to see if there is anything that pops up that could impact and ig or group of ig's generally and we try to at least alert the community of its existence or if it is something that impact a great number of us, we do reach out to the hill to try to see whether the -- where the legislation is going. we provide technical assistance
to staff members, they reach out to us periodically when they are drafting things to make sure that what they are trying to do is really what will happen and to see if there is any concern in the community about what is being proposed. as an legislation committee chair, i take my staff, i have a wonderful staff, we take the legislation draft and we circulate it within the community and get comments from everybody in the community because we are all different ig's . we have different programs. they might not impact a group of us, it might significantly impact another group. we circulate that proposed draft widely. we also, if it is something that impact an investigation or an audit, there is an audit committee and an investigation committee. we make sure that those committees review the legislation as well because they are the technical experts. so while the legislation committee looks to make sure
that the proposed legislation does not negatively impact one of our abilities like our independence, or inadvertently assign us a programmatic duty, which we could not perform, we also make sure that legislation has proposed that would impact our technical missions. it is looked at and any feedback provided on that. we try, also, to work with congress. we reached out to the hill at one point to set up a briefing for staffers called meet the ig's. that was an effort to bring in staffers who did not normally interact with ig's so that we could explain the ig action, what we do, and how we could him if they have questions, answer their questions about ig's. michael horwitz participated in a number of other chairs of communities -- committees
participated. it went fairly well, we like to that kind of activity more because it is easier to work with congress or work with staff once you have met them and interacted with them, then it is when you have to wait for there to be a crisis. that is what we have been trying to see the wisdom we have been trying to impart on the ig community as of the legislation committee. one of the big pieces of legislation that went through the committee recently was the ig empowerment act and we worked with the groups on that. the legislation committee, when we do meet with congressional staffers, we ensure that we meet with both the minority and majority come a preferably together, that is what we like to do. we would like to make sure that everybody understands what was said in the meeting and there are no westerns about something being left out of a briefing that was provided to somebody else. we also make sure that the
right parties participate in the briefings that we give, even if it is something that the legislation committee is not really as involved in as others. for example, we had a briefing with the science and technology committee on a piece of legislation that they were drafting concerning -- it was somewhat ig involvement but there were other issues involved with the technical aspects of it. we put together a group of ig, people to go and talk to the staff, to explain the technical problems associated with the legislation, and we do that quite frequently. i think one of the big takeaways as far as the legislation committee is, that we work very hard to make sure that what is proposed is not something that will make it to the impact community, and that it is a bipartisan effort.
like i said, the ig empowerment act, we work there she peg worked on it initially. when she left the chair position and i took over, we worked on it for a year and a half, meetings on the hill, bipartisan meetings to make sure that that path. -- past. three pieces of legislation of particular importance to us, one was the exemption from the computer matching act. the other was an exemption from the paperwork reduction act, and the last was probably the most important, at least from my personal experience -- perspective because i was negatively impacted by it as and ig, to reaffirm that access to information and access to all information, so those things were brought forward with the empowerment act. the other thing we do, with every congress, the committee sits down and puts together a
list of priorities of legislation that we think would assist us in doing our jobs better. and therefore provide congress with more effective oversight. we produce the priorities better, we send it to congress. and we work on that priorities letter for the two years that congress is in session, and then if congress leaves and nothing is passed, sent the letter in again, we are very tenacious. a bunch of people. we work on that until we get it done. this congress, the priorities concerned, protecting cyber security vulnerabilities, we have a proposal. we are making it more useful to agencies.
of the legislative interaction. now we're going to turn to delisa lay and then we're going to hear from john who are going to give us the congressional perspective of the issues. >> thanks very much. senator, you're a giant in the world of congressional oversight, so it's a great honor to be here today. i was very sorry to see that michael had to slip out, but john and i will see him next week. so i am the oversight of policy advisor for chuck rathly.
you'll easily guess that i have the easiest job on capitol hill. i wonder who is counseling who in those situations, but he's a great teacher. if he were here, i think when we're talking about the role of inspector general of oversight, he would start with congressional oversight. what is it? why is it important, and where do igs fit into that? congressional oversight is inherent in the legislative vesting clause in the constitution. it's one of the systems in our system of checks and balances. it's designed to preserve the balance of separate powers. usually asking one or more of the following questions. are the laws being implemented according to the intent of congress?
is taxpayer money being spent wisely and appropriately. is there fraud, abuse, or other type of misconduct? how did it get started and how do we fix it? lastly, should there be a law? do we need to legislate in this area? more than 2 million people work for the federal government, and that does not include contractors or full-time military personnel. so i think there was a 2015 study that was done that estimated the actual size of the federal government to be just over 9 million. by contrast, does anyone know how many congressional staffers work in the legislative branch? it's 16,000. and if you add gao, ncrs, that number skyrockets to just under 20,000. so we're a bit outnumbered. congress has a lot of other challenges, and they're not just about partisan politics. i know there's been a lot of talk about that today, but
they're also structural, and that's by design. power in congress is diffused among two different houses and 535 members. by contrast, again, in the executive branch, there are millions of people who work there and two are elected. so we grapple with these interests that are sometimes in contrast to and work against institutional priorities. inspector generals don't have these problems or at least they're not supposed to. when there's strong oversight activity that happens a lot more than people think it does, for whatever reason it doesn't get reported or there's not as much attention to it, it's not as exciting. there's still the issue of perception. the public and folks like michael doing more and more work to make sure they are aware are more likely to trust the reports of an inspector general not just because they have more resources and
expertise, but they're required by statute to exercise independence and authority. they're more likely to trust igs because they're not congress. that doesn't have anything to do with party politics. from what i've observed, there's a strong institutional loyalty in the executive branch that you're not going to get in institutions like congress. we think about the ways these institutions are designed, that's probably particularly true in the justice department which is the department that my committee oversees. we really, really need igs. when we think about the role of inspector generals oversight, the bottom line is it's absolutely critical. congress is willing to do whatever we can in a very bipartisan fashion to make sure that igs are actually able to do their jobs. i know the inspector general
empowerment act has been mentioned. that was a piece of legislation that was important to chairman rathley. he was the chief sponsor on that bill. when we had information coming to us about the fbis unwillingness to provide all records as the ig act required to mr. horowitz, he told us about it, we held hearings, and they came out with the opinion that all does not mean all. we got together and it took a lot of work with the inspector general community and with folks on the house side and, you know, in the minority party to get that together. we're very pleased about that. but the igs should not rest on their laurels to the extent that you know you're still having issues getting access. that's what we're here for.
really quickly, that's kind of the general way i think that folks in congress who do oversight think about the role of igs and why it's so important to us. in a specific way, i think they've probably helped more than anybody else except for maybe henry in the office of special counsel. igs can do all the audits and reviews in the world that are required in statute, but without whistle blowers, you'll miss some of the insidious and systemic problems that exist in the federal government. whistle blowers are the life blood of what they do and what congress does as well. we don't have the resources to review protective disclosures or investigate reprisal claims. we don't have 1811s or forensic capabilities. mine extend to turning my computer on and off, that's about it. so they have the ability to do
those investigations. in many cases, are the only ones who can. contractors, fbi employees, folks in the intelligence community, they can't go anywhere else. igs are the only place they can go. those folks specifically have got to have a fair, impartial, and thorough whistle blower protection program. i think we've been able to work together with the igs and with osc to make that better. particularly with something we had a series of round tables with the igs and osc. we were able to share information, talk about resource constraints, talk about what are some common problems they're seeing across the different inspectors general. how they view their roles and talk about ways to leverage their resources.
the osc and igs in congress, we all have different roles to play in terms of oversight and protecting whistle blowers. i think we learned better how to share information and do that together. and one of the pieces of legislation was the whistle blower coordination act. we had to come up with something. we worked hard with folks on the house side as well and many long hours and e-mails exchanged. i can't say how much i appreciate their dedication to keeping the program alive and functioning and robust. so that act passed the house of congress and it's not been signed yet, but we eagerly await that. thank you. >> that sounds like a good report on igs in congress.
that's helpful. now we're going to have john who's also from congress and can give us more of the congressional viewpoint. john? >> thanks. hi. i work for chairman downey at the house oversight committee where i've been doing congressional oversight for almost 10 years now. a couple of the spokes who spoke previously alluded to independence for an inspector general. i'll focus on that from the perspective of a house staffer. what do we look for when we're trying to identify whether or not an inspector general is adequately independent? we all recognize the igs have an extraordinarily difficult task with respect to thwarting off challenges from their independence. they come from a number of
different angles. partisans in congress hope that the ig will make findings that align with their points of view. in some cases, the media are extremely interested in the outcome of an igs investigation. navigating those competing pressures is difficult, but the effectiveness of any given ig depends on how successful they're able to do that. independence is crucial to an i ig. the dual-reporting requirement means they have to meet two different sets of expectations. the agency's expectations and congress'. from the perspective of a house staffer, i'll share what those expectations are. at the oversight committee, we expect the igs will honor a few key principles. first, we expect to be notified of problems at an agency
promptly. we understand most issues don't rise to the level of requiring a seven-day letter. those are very rare. i think that's appropriate. but from our end, we expect the lines of communication between the igs and congress to be well established to the point that the ig staff can pick up the phone, e-mail their contacts with various committees, and say here's something we're looking at, here's what we're working on, here's what you can expect in terms of a report. we'll be happy to give you more information if you'd like it. that sort of prompt and open communication along those lines can ward off the perception that agency management has had an opportunity to try to get out in front of an issue or make a game plan to diminish the impact of the igs findings. i think it's fair for the agency not to receive any surprises from the ig. and that's congress'
expectation as well. when it comes to promptly notifying congress, we expect those communications to be non- partisan. we expect equal access to information from the majority and the minority. if that notification can come simultaneously like cathy mentioned, that's ideal. it's not always possible but that's the target. we expect the igs to resist the pressure to water down their findings. we appreciate the process where they go to review before being transferred to congress. that's part of getting a good product out the door, but our expectation is that process shouldn't necessarily be a negotiation. if there are mistakes in a report or an audit, correct them, and rely on the agency to point them out. otherwise, the best practice is often to simply attach the
agency's feedback as an exhibit to the report. we expect the igs to operate to make clear leadership cannot prevent the ig from doing a particular audit or investigation, neither could they stop one that is on going. i don't think a position on how often an ig should communication or meet with agency leadership, i don't think there's a one size fits all approach there. it just sort of depends on the personalities and the relationship. but there does need to be a clear line and a clear understanding that agency management cannot dictate the outcomes of investigations, attempt to hold investigations, and if situations like that ever arise, that's where we in congress expect to be notified by the igs that they're dealing with a challenge along those lines.
we're on the lookout for any indication the ig is receiving less access to agency records and witnesses than are necessary to do a thorough investigation. over the years, we've heard from igs at a number of different agencies that they've been dealing with roadblocks with respect to their access to information access to records, oftentimes. we updated the act to reflect congress' intent that the igs should have the right to access every single record at the agency. all means all. that's our expectation that the
igs sort of enforce that language. there should be no doubt as to whether agencies can and should disclose potentially sensitive information to igs. in fact, we're most comfortable in the cases where the ig has the capability to extract the records they need without even having to ask for them in the first place. fourth and last, we expect the igs to operate separately from their agencies. every ig should have independent legal counsel. they shouldn't have to rely on general counsel for legal advice. i think that's happening less and less, but that used to be the setup at a few of the smaller federal entities. the ig should have the ability to publish reports without obtaining approval or relying on agency staff in any way. the ig should have their own procurement authority to avoid a situation that could
compromise the independence of their investigations. and importantly, the ig should have an independent computer system. otherwise, any agency employee with the appropriate rights could sign into the ig system and see what they're working on. those are sort of the four core principles we have at the oversight committee when we think of ig independence. those are some of the ways we measure it. there's more to independence than just those, of course. we haven't dealt with the ways congress itself can occasionally try to exert pressure on an ig. but hopefully those are useful guidelines and i look forward to the q and a. thanks. >> we are going to wrap the panel up with our wrap-up hitter here, john sopko. i believe john has a powerpoint.
>> that's scary. everyone knows i'm mr. i.t . good morning. it's a pleasure to be here. i want to thank you for the introduction. also, thank you for the invitation to attend and participate in this important event. as i mentioned, or as previous speakers mentioned, i came to washington in 1982 where i joined the staff on the committee for investigations. oversight has been a part of my life since 1982. i learned at the footsteps of senator levine and also another fellow michiganer, john dingle. as you all know, chairman dingle was the father of modern oversight in u.s. congress. the importance of congressional oversight cannot be overstated.
in 1900, woodrow wilson wrote it is the proper duty of representative bodies to look into diligently every affair of government and to talk much about what they see. the informing function of congress should be preferred even to its legislative function. one wonders if wilson came to regret those words once he became president 13 years later. but for congress to conduct effective oversight, it must have the expertise into the matters it is looking at, and that's what i'm going to be addressing today. as the supreme court wrote in 1927 in a seminole case, a legislative body cannot legislate wisely or effectively in the absence of information. and when they don't have it, the recourse must be to try to possess it. traditionally, congress has turned to committee staff.
we heard about that. and to their support agencies for the expertise. as james hamilton, assistant chief counsel during the watergate hearings noted in his book in 1976 noted. according to the brookies institution, the numbers of staff in the house has declined from 2000 to 1100. and from 1400 to 950 in the senate since 1979, about the time that the ig act was created. personal staff, personal office staff were also reduced by nearly 7% over the same time period. this at a time when each house member represented roughly 200,000 more constituents, and
each senator 1.6 million more constituents. we've cut their staff. congressional support agencies, which could have filled the gap, have also suffered similar cuts. it was alluded to before, but since 1979 the number of gao staff dropped from 5300 to 3000. the staff of the congressional research service was reduced by 28%. to just over 600. the office of technology assessment was abolished in 1995. while congress' internal expertise declined, at the same time the number of think tanks and lobbyists in washington exploded. the university of pennsylvania did a study on that and looked at the number of think tanks that doubled since 1980. although washington d.c. is the home of less than one-half of 1% of the u.s. population, it
houses 21% of the 1900 think tanks. many think tanks can do great work. as a 2014 investigation showed, many are beholding foreign government funding. additionally as the national public radio investigation of last year indicated, many think tanks are increasingly relying on corporations for donations in the cut throat fund raising era of today. think tanks, of course, have a lot of expertise. but can congress count on them for the independence and the absolute objectivity that those crs, gao, and ota staff used to provide? but then of course we have the lobbyists. as the number of congressional staff have decreased, the number of lobbyists have
increased. there are 12,000 congressional staffers and 11500 registered lobbyists. there are more people lobbied but not registered. they may have useful information, i agree. but by definition, lobbyists are partial to whomever is paying for their services and whatever cause they are advancing. so where can congress turn to for the expertise for that oversight function that wilson said was just as important and maybe even more important than the legislative function? what i would argue today in the year of the ig, it is the ig community. and since 1978, as we've learned, a number of ig offices has grown to 72 with a combined workforce of over 14,000 personnel. take, for example, my little
agency cigar. the little agency with the tobacco-sounding acronym. we have issued over 300 audits and reports since i took over six years ago. we've identified over $2 billion in savings and returns to the taxpayer. much of our work comes at the direction of congress, including a request which we did have to fight to get declassified to look at the lahee act and how it was being followed by the department of defense and department of state in afghanistan. 94 members of congress in the house and senate, republican and democrat requested that report. we fought on their behalf to get it done. we are also required by the last appropriations act to look at -- and i think it's the first time in the history of an ig -- we've been asked to audit a foreign government. we were asked by the appropriate toes by law to
audit the afghan government's anti-corruption strategy and how it was implemented. this was just released last week. the appropriateors liked it so much, so we have to do it next year also. now, the ig act provides for igs' independence. that's an important thing. it's the independence that's necessary as mr. horowitz said to publicly share unvarnished findings with the limited threat of retribution. in essence, good igs are change agents. we speak truth to power, but we speak truth on how to improve how governments work. that sounds like congressional oversight to me. as i wrote in a recent op-ed published in the hill, now 40 years after the ig was created and created independent igs,
we can't rest on our laurels. we need to reflect on how we can do our job better since things have changed since 1978. for example, do igs need to partner more often with other igs to examine matters that are not within a single agency's per view? that's particularly important for us because we are one of the only two igs who are not housed in one government agency. so by definition, we're not stovepiped. i look at all reconstruction money spent by any u.s. government agency in afghanistan. i'm not housed in defense, i'm not housed in state, i'm not housed in aid. very few igs have that ability to look at the whole of government issues. and i would argue that the challenges we face today, whether it's in reconstruction in afghanistan, whether it's in privacy, whether it's in healthcare, or whether it's
fighting the opioid epidemic are not stovepiped. they deal with the whole of government. so should igs be thinking in terms of the whole of government approach? remember, we're agents of change. we're supposed to fix the government, improve how it works. do we need to start thinking? not just sigar but other agency igs on the whole of government approach? i would also argue that like most congressional staff who are limited by their members' election, we actually have some longevity. we actually have some protection from the election cycle. so we have the opportunity to do lessons learned, which go beyond the individual audit or inspection or other report and looks looks at the big picture.
you, sigar, have this whole of government approach. you need to ask the big questions and draw out the big improvements that need to be done in the whole of government approach. we've issued four and tomorrow we'll issue the fifth lessons learned approach looking on counter-narcotics activities that we've spent over $8 billion on in afghanistan. so in closing, while the ig community i think is standing ready, willing, and able to support congress in its oversight role, congress also has an important role. you need to standby us and support us. no one in the executive branch, trust me on this, yells out great! the ig is coming to our office! in my 30-40 years here, i've never heard of anybody saying
that, even the whistle blowers. they don't want us coming. so we need protection by congress and sometimes we need protection by congress from other elements of congress to allow us to do that important work, to support congress, and to improve the government and save the taxpayers dollars. thank you. >> to the point, as usual. i'll i'll throw out a couple of questions. i know we're low on time, so we'll have time for people from the audience if people have questions. john, at the end, you alluded to the pressure on igs. i think one of the sort of themes of this conference is
that, you know, the role of igs was congressional oversight. but the premise that perhaps that is becoming even more important as congress becomes more partisan. so that theme has a couple of assumptions in it. one, that igs are very important, even more critical if you're doing partisan as opposed to bipartisan oversight. that's one thing i'd like to hear your views on. is that true? the second one is that things are, in fact, becoming more partisan in oversight on the hill. and i'd love to hear people's views about the igs and the congressional staff. i came from a time when i can truthfully say at psi because psi even has -- it has 50 years of bipartisan oversight, and it has rules in its its subcommittee rules that ensure
that. we didn't have partisan issues there. i was fortunate when i did the 9/11 inquiry that i had the leaderships of both the intelligence committee, four members that agreed from day one that inquiry was so important that it was going to be guided by the facts and not by partisanship. they get a lot of credit for that. so i had the privilege and the luck of doing oversight in a bipartisan atmosphere. so the question is, is that atmosphere still on the hill? if it does, are igs more important than ever? and to the igs, does it also make your job more difficult? whoever. >> from my perspective, we've always considered the igs to be
neutral, non-partisan fact finders. that's exactly what we rely on them to be. we read the reports and take testimony at hearings from igs with that understanding. both sides of the aisle sort of pick and choose which aspects of a report or which recommendations that appeal most to them. i'd urge igs to consider -- the fact that igs carry over from one administration to the next brings a lot of value, and that's why some of the things that i touched on with respect to igs sharing information equally between the majority and the minority are so important so the igs can maintain that appearance of non- partisanship. not just the appearance but in most cases, they are non- partisan. as far as the non-part -- >> it may vary by committee.
>> i think psis very different from the oversight committee. we don't have the same rules and understandings that allow psi to do its work in a different way. i've been at ogr for 10 years. it's been relatively partisan that whole time, so i can't say it's necessarily more partisan now from my perspective. >> i think from the legislation committee standpoint and even from my position as a peace corps inspector general, we've never had an issue with partisannenship when it comes to oversight of igs. both the oversight committees as i previously said for ig stf prty much understand what we do, and it's non- partisan. i have experienced partisanship in my authorizing committee. we deal with other authorizing committees and not oversight
committees, i think that's where you see partisanship creeping in more than anything. it's more of a committee thing. >> how does that impact the ig? i mean, do you get caught? what happens if you get caught between conflicting demands from the majority and the minority? how do you handle that? how do you do it? >> you know, i think you have to insist that you're breaking both sides. you have to be non-partisan. if i can just change your question a little bit. i'm less concerned about the partisanship. i've testified 19 times in the last six years. it is the quality of the investigations. >> that's good. >> that's why i emphasize it's the staffing. i feel for our congressional members and their staff now. you don't have the time to do the type of work we did.
we did something like 15 hearings on the blue cross/blue shield program. when i worked for john dingle, i did 16 hearings -- 16 hearings -- on food safety because dingle wanted a bipartisan record that could be used to introduce legislation. and so he gave the staff the time. senator levine gave his staff the time. now because the staffs are so small, i can't remember what psi staff is now compared to when we were there in the '80s. there are 10 oress. how can you put on a good hearing? and then it becomes easy to fall into partisanship because that's the easy thing. some lobbyist gives you a
screen and this becomes the angle of the investigation rather than an in-depth analysis. that's my concern is basically we have undercut the capability of congress to do their job and do effective oversight because we've cut their budgets. >> at the cia, we had a practice and created a pattern that if we got a call from one side of the aisle regardless of the committee, whether it's house or senate, we would tell the requester, usually the staff director, we have to call his or her counterpart if they hadn't already done so. we were driving them to communicate instead of putting it on us. if we had a request from one side of the ail, aisle, we not only responded but we made sure
the other side knew we were going to be pursuing an investigation of the chairman or the ranking member and tried to drive at least from a fact- based standpoint making sure both sides of the aisle knew the same thing at the same time, which was difficult if you couldn't get both sides in the room at the same time. which, unfortunately, happens too often. and i presume just from reading the papers that the situation is probably more tense today than it was just five or six years ago and certainly 20 years ago. >> i've only been on the hill for three years, so i don't have the breadth and depth of experiences of the other people on the panel. i want to say it's very important to look at structure and rules and how the different committees in different houses of congress function, the way
hoger functions will be different than hsgac. our committees operate very differently. it's very easy for a chairman in the house to issue a subpoena with or without consultation or agreement with a ranking member. in the senate, that's not the case unless you're on a committee like psi or i think aging. i haven't looked at the rules in a while, so it's important to be familiar with the rules of the individual committees and the house and the senate. in terms of increased partisanship, in my experience, a lot of the work that we do, we do in a bipartisan way. and that's not necessarily the work that people are going to be reporting on or that you're going to read about. but there are many issues on which the first people i call are on the minority side. whatever we disagree about in some cases, for example, senator widen whatever we might
disagree ability, senator grass and widen are like this when it comes to whistleblower protection. we're frequently working together on those issues. there are ways to get past whatever else is going on. we sign on to letters or suggest that minority members sign on to letters to do things in a bipartisan way all the time. as far as how that relates to the experience of igs, i don't know because i've never worked at an ig before. but i would say that maybe in some cases what appears to be, you know, partisan motivation isn't necessarily that. and it could be, as john said, there are different folks interested in different topics but it's not necessarily motivated by partisanship. >> one more question so we get to this. all of you have said or implied
that igs are critical to congressional oversight. john is nodding in agreement. the question is, how do you use them? what do they do for you in congressional oversight? we know there are semi-annual reports, but there's a number of other ways they can be used. you can ask for audits, you can ask for investigations, i assume you can still ask for briefings. i'm going on things i know happened in the past. there were even instances at psi and other committees where people would detail employees from igs offices to congressional oversight staff. so that's what i'm asking, i guess. when you say they're critical to you, how are they critical, and what do they do for you specifically? >> all the ways you just mentioned are still ways that we count on the igs. we have igs testify at our
hearings regularly. they provide tremendous insight being part of a panel a lot of times sitting next to agency witnesses, the ig can provide an independent, unbiased point of view on whatever the hearing topic is. we rely on igs in a lot of situations where the igs have so much more access to records than we do at an agency. when we launch an investigation, we moe spend most of our time fighting over access to documents. igs are able to dive in, in most cases. we count on igs in those cases. >> i assume they have expertise in narrower areas you may be interested in but don't have that kind of expertise. >> it's been alluded to that there are limitations on the congressional staff in terms of size and obviously resources and there are so many areas
where the ig has that institutional familiarity. >> i could monopolize this with questions, but i don't want to do that. let's see who in the audience has some questions. >> hi. stacey bridges. what happens when your findings are dismissed and the work that you do, if it doesn't fit to political agenda or the lobbyists or special packs have to say about your findings, what happens when your work is dismissed and the agency is demised as they're not important. you're very important to the american people.
what can you do to stay afloat to make sure that your work is seen and heard by the people who need to hear it and see it? >> i'll take a shot at that one. from my experience, the vast majority of the findings and recommendations in routine work of audits and inspections in my tenure were accepted. the recommendations were largely agreed to. as one of the other speakers pointed out earlier, the real rub is getting those recommendations implemented. it's easy for them to say yes, we concur in principle, and then it goes on the shelf. one of the things that leon pinetta instituted was an expectation that all of the recommendations agreed would be implemented. so they set a new standard for
the agency. quite frankly, i'll air some dirty laundry from the past. recommendations that weren't implemented expired after a certain number of years. they were no longer tracked. i put an end to that. so the number of recommendations that hadn't been implemented started growing. that's when the directors started paying attention. it turned into a monthly meeting with directors from the cia to talk about recommendations in the specific operations to get them implemented. and that worked over a period of several years. however, there was a public event where our investigation found -- this is the one where the investigation found that the agency had, quote/unquote, spied on staff.
that did not at all make the central intelligence agents happy, the fact of the investigation or our findings. they set up a separate investigation of our investigation. that sort of had a chilling effect, obviously. but at the end of the day, the facts were the facts, and the fact will stand forever in history. the recommendations, however, were implemented. so it can happen anywhere, you do have those times where you can really run into some head butting at the top of an organization and an agency. you just have to be persistent and stay with the game. i will say this last thing, sorry. were it not for the senate intelligence and the house intelligence committees and their attention to that matter -- on both sides the house and the senate and both sides of the aisle has a unique interest
in the conduct and the outcome -- if that had not been the case, that may have tipped an independence and authority issue for the organization. thank god it did not. >> you have to remember that congress got, i think got it right when they read the ig act because that act requires that the ig keep both congress and the department or agency they work in fully and currently informed. so if there's a clash, the ig is obligated to tell congress about it, which is what he just said. when the committees found out about it, that's when things started moving. that's the beauty of that act. >> in the legislation committee, there was a piece of legislation that passed the senate recently that would
require all open recommendations that have been open for a year be posted on oversight.gov if they can get it up and going to that extent. i think congress does pay attention to the fact that there are a lot of recommendations being made, and them being implemented. that's one way they're trying to handle that. >> more questions? >> mike stern. there's been a fair amount of discussion, the question of whether igs can get access to all agency records, and i know that's an issue that came up quite frequently when i was on the hill. the other side of that was when the ig did get access to agency records, sometimes the agency would not allow the ig to transmit those documents to
congress. i'd like your comments both on whether the ig empowerment act has seemed to have taken care of the first problem and how it's doing with the second. >> can i address that? we've been in the press on that since last year. we publish a semi-annual report. we can get access to the records, but now there's a push to classify everything. and the insidious classification is official use only. and that's a different one because it's not really a classification. it's more a state of mind. but it gets tricky. because your agencies will push back and god forbid somebody gets hurt if you release this information. we have an on going battle with
that. the other trick i've seen agencies do is now it's not us classifying it, it's nato classifying it. nato unclassified is classified. they say, well, you can print it but it's nato unclassified, which in nato speak is official use only. you can't release it to the public. and then the last trick is the foreign government has asked declassified. we have an on going battle. more and more stuff is getting classified. and there the igs are stuck. they're abiding by the law, we just can't tell the taxpayer what's going on. >> i hear you. i spent seven months trying to get the 9/11 report declassified, and that was congress fighting the intelligence agencies. any other questions? yeah.
>> hey, there. jason brifle. given the discussion around partisanship. one of the pieces that continues to be an object of consideration is the subpoena authority for executive branch officials. just curious at the thoughts on how to balance that authority. i know there are some ideas on that with these demands from congress and the ability for the public to get information, as well as the rights of those individuals. especially given that the house has brought back the haulman role used in the appropriations bill and how you allow career officials to do their job and strike that right balance in terms of that subpoena testimony authority.
>> that was something we tried very hard to get included in the inspector general empowerment act. it does not make it through the process for reasons i won't go into here. but i think that one careful way to balance that with some of the concerns i think that have been expressed are just we try to build into the empowerment act before it was passed where this piece was taken out. some procedural safeguards in addition to fairly obvious limitations. i think everyone agrees that one huge difficulty that many igs have in administrative investigations is they go through this process, they have findings, they get to the end of it, and oh that person has retired. and they don't face any consequences for what they did or what they allegedly did. and it's just incredibly demoralizing and frustrating
for those of us in congress, for whistleblowers who bring their claims forward. it just sort of perpetuates this lack of accountability. i think that interest is really strong, but i think there are ways to limit that and provide safeguards so that retirement escape hatch isn't there. >> part of the problem with the retirement escape hatch is people under investigation or people who are witnesses that we need to talk to, to complete an investigation will retire. that's the intent, the ability to reach out to those individuals and have them participate in an interview or a deposition or whatever you want to call it regarding their part in that area that's being audited or investigated. government officials who are currently government officials already have the duty to cooperate with the inspector
general. we do not need to subpoena them. >> the other piece to the puzzle is getting access to contractors and non- government officials who could provide evidence or assist in an investigation. as it stands, there's no ability to compel folks to cooperate with ig investigations who are not agency employees. that's an issue we're trying to address as well. >> okay. i'm told we are out of time. i want to thank our distinguished panel. i think we have untolled years of experience on this panel in both congress and in the ig community, and it's been very helpful. very illuminating, and i think they did a great job. and we also want to thank the audience for your attention and attending this morning. i'm told there will be a 10- minute break, and