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Context of 'July 27, 2001: General Accounting Office Says EPA Ombudsmen Do Not Have Sufficient Autonomy'

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The EPA publishes a “Draft Guidance for the National Hazardous Waste Ombudsman and the Regional Superfund Ombudsmen Program,” which attempts to “clarify” the National Ombudsman’s function. (Environmental Protection Agency 1/3/2001; US Congress 6/25/2002) The current ombudsman, Robert Martin, argues that the guidelines are actually designed to limit the scope of the ombudsman’s authority, by placing the office under the authority of the head of Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER), an EPA division the ombudsman may investigate. (Walsh 11/29/2001)

The General Accounting Office (GAO) issues a report on the National Ombudsman’s office at the request of the Chairman of the House Sub-Committee on Environment and Hazardous Materials. (US Congress 6/25/2002; US Congress 7/16/2002) The report criticizes the EPA’s January guidance (see January 3, 2001) and concludes that the EPA’s national and regional ombudsmen do not have sufficient autonomy. (Walsh 11/29/2001) The GAO report recommends the following:
bullet Strengthen the ombudsman’s independence by moving the office outside of the solid waste program;
bullet Provide the ombudsman with a separate budget and staff;
bullet Increase the ombudsman’s accountability by requiring the office to develop specific criteria for its investigations. (General Accounting Office 7/27/2001 pdf file)

National Ombudsman Robert Martin sends a memorandum to EPA Administrator Christie Whitman suggesting that the agency implement the recommendations in the General Accounting Office’s July 2001 report (see July 27, 2001). He advises against a proposal under consideration that would move his office to the Office of Inspector General (OIG). He argues that doing so would not increase the ombudsman’s independence and notes that the ombudsman’s mission is very different than the OIG’s. (Environmental Protection Agency 11/26/2001 pdf file; US Congress 6/25/2002)

Environmental Protection Agency ombudsman Robert Martin writes to EPA Administrator Christie Whitman criticizing her decision (see September 28, 2001) to transfer his office to the Office of Inspector General (OIG). Martin challenges her assertion that this would result in greater autonomy, noting that the IOG had previously “interfered with [a]… National Ombudsman investigation” of the Marjol Batter Site. (Environmental Protection Agency 11/26/2001 pdf file)

Nine US Congressional representatives write to EPA Administrator Christie Whitman asking that she refrain from transferring the National Ombudsman office. Eighteen Congressional representatives have already submitted the same request to Whitman (see Afternoon November 27, 2001). (US Congress 6/25/2002)

EPA National Ombudsman Robert Martin and the Government Accountability Project (GAP) file a lawsuit challenging EPA Administrator Christie Whitman’s plan to relocate the ombudsman’s office to the EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) (see Morning November 27, 2001). (Associated Press 1/10/2002)

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issues a report on the Pentagon’s “stop-loss” program (see November 2002). The GAO report says that the Pentagon’s “implementation of a key mobilization authority to involuntarily call up reserve component members and personnel policies greatly affects the numbers of reserve members available to fill requirements.” (Moyers 9/17/2004) Over 335,000 Guardsmen and Army reservists have been “involuntarily called to active duty since September 11, 2001,” the report finds, with no sign that such involuntary deployments will decrease any time soon. The GAO finds that such widespread forcible deployments were done with little consideration of the costs to the reservists and Guard personnel in their private lives—damage to jobs, families, and other aspects—as well as the negative impact such involuntary deployments are having on the military’s ability to recruit new personnel for Guard and reserve berths. (Government Accountability Office 9/15/2004)

According a report released by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), the US Department of Defense (DOD) often contracted directly with local Iraqi firms for less complex electrical reconstruction projects rather than using large design-build contracts. DOD officials estimate that the direct contracts with Iraqi firms were 20 to 50 percent more cost efficient than the larger design-build contracts. (US Government Accountability Office 12/15/2006, pp. 9 pdf file)


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