Summary account provided by Empower Oversight.
Last year, a whistleblower disclosed to Empower Oversight that the inspectors general (IGs) of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) had received salary payments in excess of the legal limits.
As described in previous Empower Oversight FOIA requests to the NSA, NRO, the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE), and the Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General (DOD-OIG),—a January 25, 2022, memorandum addressed to the DOD-OIG analyzed the overpayments, recommended actions to correct them, and more generally, recommended a review of NSA-OIG’s and NRO-OIG’s personnel policies to ensure that the law is followed in the future.
The whistleblower also disclosed that CIGIE’s Integrity Committee received a copy of the January 25th memorandum and shared it with CIGIE’s members—including the NSA-IG and the NRO-IG. Yet the Integrity Committee, co-chaired by the NSA-IG, failed to open an inquiry into the overpayments.
On March 25, 2022, to shed light on DOD-OIG’s, CIGIE’s, and NSA’s efforts, or lack of efforts, to investigate the circumstances surrounding the excess salary payments, Empower Oversight filed FOIA requests to bring transparency to the overpayments and any corrective action.
To date DOD-OIG, CIGIE, and NSA have produced 154 pages of heavily redacted records. DOD-OIG produced 116 pages of redacted records, and Empower Oversight successfully appealed the adequacy of DOD-OIG’s records search and the legitimacy of its redactions. CIGIE produced 38 pages of heavily redacted records, and NSA has produced nothing. DOD-OIG, CIGIE, and NSA claim to continue to process Empower Oversight’s requests.
More than eight months having passed since Empower Oversight filed its March 25th FOIA request, and with no conclusion in sight, on January 4, 2023, Empower Oversight filed FOIA requests with DOD-OIG, CIGIE, and NSA to gain an understanding of their efforts to respond to Empower Oversight’s May 25th FOIA requests.
Specifically, Empower Oversight is seeking any and all communications between or among the NSA-IG, DOD, DOD-OIG, NSA-OIG, and/or CIGIE concerning the original FOIA requests; four pages of responsive records that DOD-OIG allegedly referred to CIGIE on July 29, 2022; and all processing notes regarding the FOIA requests.
Additionally, in an “Editor’s Note” to a May 12, 2022, article entitled “Two Agency Inspectors General Got Salaries that Busted Legal Limits on Political Employee Pay,” the Federal News Network advised that “[t]he NSA IG . . . Robert Storch, told Federal News Network that the day after he learned of the [overpayments] he received, he repaid them with a personal check for $17,595.13. Storch says he was not consulted on the increases, and declined to seek a waiver to keep them.”
The records produced by DOD-OIG and CIGIE do not include evidence that the former NSA-IG reimbursed the government for the salary overpayments that he received, and NSA thus far has produced no records. Hence, Empower Oversight’s January 4th FOIA request to the NSA also seeks all records that demonstrate any repayment, all records that contain an accounting or calculation by year of the amounts of the overpayments, and all records related to whether interest was assessed on the amount due and any accounting or calculation of such interest assessments.
Congress required IGs to be selected “solely on the basis of integrity and demonstrated ability in accounting, auditing, financial analysis, law, management analysis, public administration, or investigations” because of the special public trust required of the position. Further, it established CIGIE to “address integrity, economy, and effectiveness issues” among the IG’s offices.
Jason Foster, Founder and President of Empower Oversight said “Unfortunately, this looks like a total failure of transparency and accountability by the IG community. Taking salary above the legal limits is an abuse of the public’s trust—doubly so when an IG does the taking, and the IG community refuses to investigate while resisting its transparency obligations under FOIA.”
CIGIE’s Integrity Committee is supposed to police the IGs. And, eight months after Empower Oversight’s FOIA requests, it has failed to provide even the most perfunctory explanation of why it refused to investigate the circumstances that allowed two IGs to receive multiple years of salary overpayments.
The public has been left to presume that CIGIE—as the whistleblower claims—took no action on the overpayments, and the American people have no records to confirm whether and to what extent the employing agencies sought and received reimbursement of taxpayer funds improperly paid to the two IGs.