Vacant Positions, Hiring Freeze Holding Federal IGs Back

Any presidential transition causes disruption to the government, as new presidents have to appoint literally thousands of new executives across the entire range of federal agencies.  But with the pace of appointments running behind other transitions, and with so many major initiatives being pursued early in the presidency, the current slowdown is more pronounced than usual.

Beyond the transition, however, there are two other major factors which are holding federal IGs back from being as effective as they could be.

The first is the number of vacant executive positions in IG offices across the government.  Many nominations for IG leadership positions were left stalled in 2016, as the Senate awaited the election results before considering them.  Now that the election is over, things aren’t happening any faster.

In fact, they’re moving backwards.  Four nominations for federal inspectors general were withdrawn this week, as they were initially proposed by the previous administration.  Among the agencies losing nominations, one has been without an IG for ten months, and another six.  Even before this most recent setback, a 2016 survey of Inspectors General indicated that vacancies were causing delays in major decisions in IG offices.  The damage becomes more long-term as time continues to pass.

The second major factor holding IGs back is the new federal hiring freeze.  The same Inspector General survey referenced above found twelve percent of IG offices are currently able to hire staff in a timely manner - many respondents said the time required to find and hire staff was holding their agency back.  Now that there’s a hiring freeze, many IGs will not be able to fill those positions which have been left unfilled due to a lack of qualified applicants willing to pursue and complete the long federal hiring process.  Federal News Radio reports that, at a recent House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, four IGs reported that they’ve had to scale back oversight due to a lack of employees.

Unfortunately, this is unlikely to be resolved soon.  With healthcare, Russia, and the federal budget drawing the attention of the Senate, presidential nominations are likely to receive only sporadic attention from Congress – and even that won’t start happening until the nominations have been made.

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