Transmitted: October 13, 2022
To: U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General
RE: Freedom of Information Act Appeal: DODOIG-2022-000658
Empower Oversight filed an appeal with the Department of Defense’s Office of Inspector General (DOD-OIG) after the agency failed to produce all documents responsive to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
Based on a whistleblower disclosure regarding salary payments to two inspectors general (IGs) that were in excess of above the legal limits, on March 25, 2022, Empower Oversight filed FOIA requests with five federal agencies (i.e., DOD, the DOD-OIG, the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE), the National Security Agency (NSA), and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO)). Empower Oversight sought all communications dealing with the alleged salary overpayments as well as any communications among inspectors general dealing with the legal cap on IGs salaries.
The IGs who allegedly received overpayments are the NRO-IG and the NSA-IG. The NSA-IG is President Biden’s nominee to be the DOD’s Inspector General. He is also the Vice Chair of the body that is supposed to oversee IGs—the Integrity Committee of the CIGIE (CIGIE-IC). According to whistleblower allegations, CIGIE-IC declined to investigate the excess payments. According to the NSA-IG, he recused himself from the CIGIE-IC’s decision about whether to probe the excess payments.
On July 29, the DOD-OIG produced 116 pages of documents. In contrast to its statutory mission to bring accountability and transparency to DOD operations, the DOD-OIG heavily redacted many of the records, obscuring the facts surrounding the salary overpayments and the reactions of various agencies to such overpayments. Moreover, the DOD-OIG withheld an unspecified number of other records that are responsive to the FOIA request.
In its administrative appeal, Empower Oversight argues that the DOD-OIG documents provided thus far reference attachments that should also have also been produced, suggesting that the DOD-OIG failed to conduct an adequate search. The appeal also argues that the DOD-OIG claimed exemptions in withholding and redacting information beyond what is allowable under FOIA law. Empower Oversight is asking that the DOD-OIG review its search for responsive records and reconsider claims of exemptions.
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