Causey Awards: Neil Barofsky says mission matters

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor

Neil Barofsky, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) was sworn into office on December 15, 2008. Since then, he’s built the office from two people to more than 100 people, now managing $700-billion dollars, and doing it without any political or outside influences.

As the winner of a Causey Award, Barofsky told Federal News Radio, the quick growth of his office is “a result of the great people that work for us.” He said every employee is there because they truly want to be there.

I swear in every employee every other week and one thing we see repeatedly is that just about every employee at SIGTARP has sacrificed something to join our mission, whether it’s leaving a high-priced job in the private sector, in corporate America, or leaving a much more stable long term agency which is a little less chaotic, a little less controversial, and will be there in 10 years. Everyone has given something up just to join this mission so it actually makes it pretty easy for me to have such incredibly talented and dedicated people.


The diversity of the office, said Barofsky, was crucial to its success. They couldn’t afford to be “too junior because there’s not a lot of time for on the job training so we needed those senior people” while they also needed the energy and vitality of young people. The SIGTARP said they tried to bring in people from as many different agencies as possible in order not to import any particular agency’s culture.

In the end, said Barofsky, the biggest draw for employees is the mission.

We have our mission statement and that everything that we have done has been to fulfill that mission, which is basically to protect the American taxpayers. To stand between $700 billion dollars of taxpayer money and those who would seek to steal, waste or abuse it. When people saw that we were doing that, it’s something they wanted to be part of; whether it was people towards the end of their career, coming in to finish up their federal career at our agency, or people just starting out wanting to get involved on the ground floor of something this exciting and this important.

Causey-winner Neil Barofsky said he’s also learned a thing or two about surviving in Washington.

It continues to, on a daily basis, to be surprising to me how much politics is just everywhere in this town and on this job. But basically, you just do the right thing. Always tell the truth. When you make a mistake, admit to your mistake and just keep driving towards the mission and everything else, more or less, solves itself.

For more about the Causey Awards, click here.

And For a “web bonus” vegetarian chili recipe from Neil Barofsky, click here.