WASHINGTON — Two presidentially-appointed inspectors general were paid about $168,000 more than the law allows from 2016 through 2020, and the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency’s Integrity Committee (“CIGIE-IC”) refused to open an investigation into the excess payments—according to a Department of Defense memorandum (“DOD memo”), confidential sources, and a whistleblower disclosure to Empower Oversight.
The January 25, 2022, DOD memo describes alleged overpayments to the Inspectors General of the National Security Agency (“NSA-IG”), and the National Reconnaissance Office (“NRO-IG”). The NSA-IG is President Biden’s nominee to be the DOD Inspector General and is also currently the Vice Chair of the CIGIE-IC. The DOD memo, provided to Empower Oversight by an anonymous whistleblower, recommends “corrective action[s]” in connection with the alleged overpayments and, more generally, that the agencies “review their personnel policies for compliance with applicable law and adjust as necessary.” It is unclear whether any actions to recover the overpayments have been taken.
“Inspector General offices must be held to the highest standards of integrity. Independent watchdogs cannot abuse the public’s trust and expect to escape the same measure of accountability they are charged with enforcing on others in government. The Integrity Committee is supposed to police the inspectors general, but if it cannot explain why it took no action on these allegations that would raise serious questions about whether it is capable of living up to its mission and the ideal expressed in its name.” said Jason Foster, Founder and President of Empower Oversight.
Empower Oversight filed Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) requests with five federal agencies—DOD, the DOD-IG, CIGIE, NSA, and NRO—seeking documents related to the alleged salary overpayments. The FOIA requests seek all communications pertaining to the alleged salary overpayments (including demands for repayment, requests for waivers of repayment demands, and responses to waiver requests); as well as communications among Inspectors General concerning a historic salary cap applicable to Presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed Inspectors General, and any requests/referrals for investigation applicable to the NSA-IG and/or NRO-IG Inspectors General.
UPDATE (Apr 5, 2022):
Following this press release, the NSA-IG provided Empower Oversight with a copy of the previously unpublished answer to a question for the record (“QFR”) about the salary overpayment during his DOD-IG confirmation proceedings from Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO). The NSA-IG also provided a similar, updated written statement. Both are reproduced in full below.
Empower Oversight submitted its FOIA requests to five agencies, including NSA, on March 25, 2022. Those FOIA requests, linked above, outlined on page three the amounts of the alleged overpayments attributable individually to each of the two IGs based on the DOD memo. The alleged overpayments to the NRO-IG appear to be much larger than merely cost-of-living adjustments that were improperly provided to the NSA-IG.
Empower Oversight had received no further information from the NRO-IG.
None of the agencies have yet produced any documents in response to the FOIA requests.
NSA-IG Rob Storch’s QFR Response to Senator Hawley:
“I have never provided myself a pay raise. As I previously informed the Committee, I learned the week before my confirmation hearing that a question had been raised as to whether I may have been overpaid by NSA, upon which my office relies for processing a variety of human resources (HR) functions, by $2,700 in 2019 and $7,700 in 2020. I immediately looked into the matter, and I was informed by the NSA senior leadership office that it and the NSA Office of General Counsel-apparently with DoD approval at the time but without consulting with me or my office-had determined that it was appropriate to apply the government-wide cost of living adjustment (COLA) to my pay in 2019, and that this was followed in 2020, both within the cap applicable to the pay schedule at which I came to work here. I further was informed that, in 2021, the Agency decided not to apply the COLA to my pay (which is direct-deposited into my wife’s and my savings) because of the pay freeze for political appointees, and that the Department had conducted a review of IG pay across the defense intelligence components. While my office and I again were not consulted on any of this, I am responsible for my pay and I unambiguously informed the Agency officials with whom I spoke, and reiterated to the Committee, that I never intended to receive and would not keep any funds if there was any question at all that they were appropriate. I instructed my HR lead to follow up and, specifically, to reach out to CIGIE for guidance-my understanding is that the issue is still being researched and I will, as indicated above, immediately repay any and all funds that it is determined may have been incorrectly paid to me.”
NSA-OIG’s Written Statement:
“The IG agrees that his salary was incorrectly increased by NSA in 2019 and 2020 as detailed below; there was no corresponding increase in 2021 or 2022. Corrective action has been taken and is ongoing as also described below.
“Mr. Storch first was informed in February 2022 that his pay may have been incorrectly increased by NSA, upon which the OIG relies for processing a variety of human resources (HR) functions, by $2,700 in 2019 and $7,700 in 2020. Neither Mr. Storch nor the OIG HR lead was aware of any issue regarding his pay (which is direct deposited into a savings account), so Mr. Storch immediately inquired of the Agency and learned that it, apparently with the approval of DoD at the time, had applied the government-wide cost of living adjustment (COLA) to his pay in those years, and then did not further apply the COLA in 2021 or 2022 due to the pay freeze for political appointees. He immediately informed the Agency, as well as the Senate Armed Services Committee before which his nomination to be the DoD IG was then pending, that he did not intend to receive and would not keep any funds that it was not completely clear were paid to him correctly.
“At Mr. Storch’s direction, the OIG promptly followed up, consulting with counsel for the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE), the NSA Office of General Counsel, and the DoD USD(I&S). Based on those discussions, the COLAs for 2019 and 2020 have already been reversed (the COLA for 2018 was determined to be appropriate as it was effective before Mr. Storch started work in his position at NSA and, as indicated above, there was no COLA applied in 2021 or 2022). Mr. Storch declined to seek a waiver of repayment for the funds previously paid, reiterating his desire and intention to repay those amounts immediately. The Agency is currently calculating the exact amount, and Mr. Storch has agreed to repay it promptly upon that determination.”
If you have first-hand information you’d like to disclose to Empower Oversight with these inquiries, please contact us confidentially here.