Senate confirms first DOD IG in years

By Tony Bertuca / December 1, 2022 at 12:23 PM

The Senate voted 92-3 on Wednesday to confirm Robert Storch as Defense Department inspector general, making him the first Senate-confirmed official at that post since January 2016.

Storch was nominated for the job one year ago but, like many other Pentagon nominees, he became entangled in the Senate confirmation process, where Republicans have been blocking President Biden’s picks for months.

Prior to his DOD IG confirmation, Storch served since January 2018 as the first IG at the National Security Agency to be appointed by a president, having been nominated to that post by former President Trump.

Storch will be assuming the job at a time when some lawmakers, watchdog organizations and defense analysts have voiced concern about overseeing tens of billions of dollars in emergency spending being used to provide military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.

The Pentagon has not had a Senate-confirmed IG in place since John Rymer left the job in January 2016.

Sean O’Donnell, the IG for the Environmental Protection Agency, served as the acting DOD IG, put in place in April 2020 by Trump after the demotion -- follow by the resignation -- of Glenn Fine, who had been acting in the position since January 2016.

Fine resigned amid fierce criticism of Trump, who removed several inspectors general over a period of weeks in the spring of 2020.

Prior to losing his reelection bid, Trump nominated Jason Abend for the DOD watchdog post. At the time, Abend was a senior policy adviser at Customs and Border Protection and was criticized by lawmakers during his confirmation process for having never served as an IG before. He was never confirmed by the Senate.

The Government Accountability Office, meanwhile, said in June that O’Donnell was unlawfully serving as acting DOD IG as his posting there was in violation of the 210-day period stipulated by the Vacancies Act.

The Senate still has nine DOD officials it must confirm before the end of the year or their nominations will need to be resubmitted.

The Biden administration has also nominated a host of other DOD officials who have not yet had Senate hearings and will likely need to be resubmitted early next year.

One such official is Nickolas Guertin, who was confirmed as director of operational test and evaluation less than a year ago but has been nominated to be the Navy's new assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition. Russell Rumbaugh, who was nominated to serve as Navy comptroller in March, also remains stalled.