Report finds understaffing in DOD IG’s office

The Defense Department risks significant financial losses and increased vulnerability to terrorist activities because DOD has too few investigators to ensure that criminal activity is detected and sufficiently investigated, according to a March report to Congress made public May 27 by the Project On Government Oversight.

The report describes DOD’s Office of Inspector General as overwhelmed by huge increases in the department's budget for the global war on terrorism and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The number of staff investigators in the IG’s office has remained nearly unchanged as DOD's budget has increased from less than $300 billion to more than $600 billion, the report states.

Understaffing has produced gaps in oversight of major weapon systems acquisition, health care fraud and product substitution, said Nick Schwellenbach, national security investigator at the nonprofit oversight group. “The Pentagon's top cop is outgunned,” he said.

The report documents a trend in which the contract dollar amounts overseen by each DOD IG contract auditor have tripled during the past decade. In fiscal 1997, there was one IG auditor for every $642 million in DOD contracts. By 2007, the ratio had declined to one auditor for every $2.03 billion in contracts, the report states.

In particular, DOD intelligence agencies, which control most intelligence spending, have experienced major reductions in oversight, according to the report.

The report also documents a loss of capacity for investigating complaints of reprisal against whistle-blowers. Despite a sharp increase in the past 10 years in the number of complaints of reprisal by military whistle-blowers — up 62 percent, from 315 to 528 a year — the number of DOD IG staff investigators who look into those complaints has decreased from 22 to 19.

The report, requested by the Senate Armed Services Committee, recommends increasing staffing levels in  DOD's IG office by 481 full-time employees, from 1,437 in fiscal 2008 to 1,918 by fiscal 2015. That increase would add 235 full-time positions in auditing, 125 in investigations, 19 in intelligence, 50 in policy and oversight, and 52 in administrative and support functions.

To get those increases, lawmakers would have to request them in the defense appropriations and authorization bills, Schwellenbach said. “Congress can make it happen.”

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