As the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, Maj. Gen. Arnold Fields (USMC, Ret.) has taken heat from Capitol Hill and fellow Inspectors General. In December 2009, three senators complained to President Barack Obama that Fields had failed to hire enough staff and issued too few audits and investigative reports.
“I’m not sure it’s been totally fair,” said Thibault, “but there’s an immediate expectation when you appoint someone to this kind of position to timely identify fraud, waste and abuse.”
Thibault said Fields was asked to start up an organization from scratch. “Hiring that kind of talent and that kind of leadership is a real challenge,” said Thibault and wondered if Fields was given enough time to demonstrate the kind of work he could do.
The work Fields managed to accomplish so far has been effective, said Thibault and “his organization has been an incredibly strong deterrent to those that would partake in fraud, waste and abuse. And if there’s a gap there where there isn’t aggressive, independent oversight, it sends the wrong message to those who would say ‘Maybe I can get away with something because maybe no one cares or maybe there’s less interest.’ Now, that’s not the case.”
As an example, Thibault said he’s looking forward “very much” to “hearing what General Fields has to say” this coming Monday during a scheduled hearing on problems in U.S.-funded construction projects in Afghanistan.
Expect to hear examples from Fields where American soldiers are sleeping in large tents, inches from each other because barracks have been boarded up due to shoddy construction, said Thibault, “and that’s just not right.”
As far as changes to oversight in the future, Thibault said maybe there should be one organization looking at the organization of oversight or to consider how oversight could be made more effective through better coordination. Thibauld said to watch for an interim report from the Commission to “tee that up” in February.
Tom Temin is the host of The Federal Drive, which airs from 6-8 a.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, D.C. region and online everywhere. Tom has 30 years experience in journalism, mostly in technology markets. Before coming to Federal News Radio, he was a long-serving editor-in-chief of Government Computer News and Washington Technology magazines.