By Scott Amey
This week, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), Arnold Fields, announced his resignation. Today, under very different circumstances, the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General (DHS IG) Richard Skinner announced his retirement. Mr. Skinner has seen his share of audit and investigation work as the agency has been through turbulent times with major projects related to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, border security, immigration, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and the bungled Coast Guard Deepwater program.
I’m left with a feeling the Mr. Skinner got a lot accomplished considering the billions awarded in contracts by DHS each year, the sprawling department that he had to oversee, and the relative infancy of DHS. Moreover, Inspector General Skinner wanted more power and authority to allow for greater oversight and accountability.
However, could Skinner have accomplished more? Unlike the majority of IGs who operate independently of the agency he or she is overseeing, the DHS “Inspector General shall be under the authority, direction, and control of the Secretary with respect to audits or investigations, or the issuance of subpoenas, that require access to sensitive information” to “preserve the national security, or to prevent a significant impairment to the interests of the United States” pursuant to Sec. 811 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002. I don’t know of any specific instances that the DHS Secretary prohibited any IG project, but it is something that is worth asking Skinner and his predecessor Clark Kent Ervin and checking on the number of times this authority have been utilized.