As we have argued previously, one of the most troubling aspects of President Obama’s legacy was his failure to nominate permanent Inspectors General (“IGs”) at many agencies across the federal government.  Without presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed leadership, there is always a real danger that IG offices will lack the necessary commitment to transparency and accountability in government.  As Senator Ron Johnson has commented, “acting” IGs—who are typically career civil servants—risk being “not truly independent [because] they can be removed by the agency at any time; they are only temporary and do not drive office policy; and they are at greater risk of compromising their work to appease the agency or the president.”

When President Obama left office, twelve agencies lacked an IG.  Since taking office, President Trump has steadily moved to remedy this dearth of leadership.  Last month, we praised the President for nominating five individuals to some of these watchdog vacancies.  Now, we can sound another note of accomplishment following the White House’s announcement today that it intends to name Michael Atkinson as Inspector General of the Intelligence Community.  Although this post only became vacant shortly after President Trump took office—the former IG, Charles McCullough, retired in March 2017—it is a vital one, particularly in the current political climate.  Mr. Atkinson, who studied law at Cornell University, currently serves as the Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s National Security Division.  He previously worked in the Department’s Fraud and Public Corruption Section.

We reiterate our hope that the White House will continue its efforts to find IGs for all current vacancies, such as those at the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  The Department of the Interior, sadly, continues to lack a permanent IG since the previous watchdog left office 3,175 day ago.  These large agencies have substantial budgets, and presidentially-appointed IGs will provide an important internal check on waste, fraud, and abuse.

Ryan P. Mulvey is Counsel at Cause of Action Institute.