OIG’s Presidential Transition Toolkitwhat’s its purpose?

Presidential Transition Toolkit
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2016 Presidential Transition Toolkit

Why the 50 page document? Are people’s jobs at risk?

Welcome to the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General’s Presidential Transition Web page.

Presidential Transition Toolkit

A 50 page, carefully prepared, “toolkit” was issued by the US Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General soon after the election (obviously it was prepared well before the surprising election). While it may be true that the President-elect may not have had much experience with or knowledge of the OIG, the aviation experts on his Transition Team and most of the federal policymaker universe certainly do. That raises the obvious question: WHY?

The document was not dated, but it contains 11 pages of resumes of the senior IG staff. All but one of those individuals hold SES appointments; one serves under Senate Approval and may be removed by the President—subject to a limitation. The SES staff are not subject to resignation based on the change of an Administration.

presidential transition toolkit

The OIG for the Department of Education also issued a similar Transition Toolkit.

Presidential Transition Toolkit

UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT

Policy and Supporting Positions

Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

U.S. House of Representatives

112th Congress, 2d Session DECEMBER 1, 2012

Available via http://www.fdsys.gov

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

OFFICE OF THE INSPECTOR GENERAL

Location – Position – Name of Incumbent – Type of Appt. Pay Plan Level, Grade, or Pay Tenure Expires

OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL

Washington, DC – Inspector General – Calvin L. Scovel III – PAS OT $170,259

 

Inspector General Act of 1978

5 U.S.C. App. 3)

§ 3. Appointment of Inspector General; supervision; removal; political activities; appointment of Assistant Inspector General for Auditing and Assistant Inspector General for Investigations

(a) There shall be at the head of each Office an Inspector General who shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, without regard to political affiliation and solely on the basis of integrity and demonstrated ability in accounting, auditing, financial analysis, law, management analysis, public administration, or investigations. Each Inspector General shall report to and be under the general supervision of the head of the establishment involved or, to the extent such authority is delegated, the officer next in rank below such head, but shall not report to, or be subject to supervision by, any other officer of such establishment. Neither the head of the establishment nor the officer next in rank below such head shall prevent or prohibit the Inspector General from initiating, carrying out, or completing any audit or investigation, or from issuing any subpena during the course of any audit or investigation.

(b) An Inspector General may be removed from office by the President. If an Inspector General is removed from office or is transferred to another position or location within an establishment, the President shall communicate in writing the reasons for any such removal or transfer to both Houses of Congress, not later than 30 days before the removal or transfer. Nothing in this subsection shall prohibit a personnel action otherwise authorized by law, other than transfer or removal.

Mr. Scovel, however, may be removed by the White House ONLY IF the House and Senate are told why by a note from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. His predecessor, Mr. Kenneth G. Mead became IG during the Clinton Administration and served through the time of President George Bush. No removal letter was written. The current IG  was appointed by President Bush and not removed by President Obama. This history suggests that incoming Presidents do not automatically remove IGs. 

The Toolkit and the below sequence of coincidences may suggest that a possible purpose of this 50 page document is to assure that the Trump Transition Team knows about the qualifications of the one person marginally at risk and has a nice reference of what the IG has done.

The OIG’s hallmark is “integrity” and must be so. The judgment of this Office cannot and should not be impaired by any political prejudice. The timing of these OIG-issued documents does not help. In this highly politicized Congressional environment, one can easily forecast a member of the opposition party looking with jaundice eye at the next OIG report.

As a note of disclosure, this Journal has frequently found fault with the reports of the Inspector General, but there have been more than a few occasions in which the work of this Office has been positively reviewed. Here’s a link to the articles.



1. Total Costs, Schedules, and Benefits of FAA’s NextGen Transformational Programs Remain UncertainNovember 10, 2016

Requested by the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

To meet its goals for the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) identified six “transformational” programs. These programs will provide a platform for new capabilities such as a precise satellite-based surveillance system and digital data communications for air traffic controllers and pilots. FAA has invested over $3 billion in these six programs since 2007, but has faced implementation challenges. Cost estimates for the transformational programs, as currently defined, now total over $5.7 billion and timelines extend beyond 2020. As requested by the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, we are providing an update to our 2012 report, which identified a lack of finalized program requirements and program costs, schedules, or performance baselines for the six transformational programs.



2. Latest Inspector General Report Underscores Need for Air Traffic Control ReformNovember 15, 2016

Washington, DC – The Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General today released yet another scathing report highlighting the uncertainty, delays, and reduced expectations in the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) NextGen air traffic control (ATC) modernization program.

The IG report, entitled, “Total Costs, Schedules, and Benefits of FAA’s NextGen Transformational Programs Remain Uncertain,” is available here.  The report focuses on the six “transformational” programs the FAA has identified as necessary to support future NextGen capabilities.

“The Inspector General’s latest report on FAA’s costly, ineffective NextGen implementation efforts again underscores the need for comprehensive reform of how our Nation’s air traffic control system is managed,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA).  “Despite the federal government spending over $7 billion on NextGen to date, and billions more spent on previous ATC modernization efforts, significant benefits have yet to materialize, and there is seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel.  The IG reports that the FAA’s original vision for NextGen is not what is being implemented today.  Instead of fundamentally changing how air traffic is managed, the agency’s efforts have shifted to replacing and updating decades-old equipment and systems.

Shuster continued, “The IG’s findings confirm my long-held belief, and the belief of many experts, that the FAA’s bureaucracy is simply unable to manage large, multi-year, technologically complex capital projects, particularly when tied to an annual funding cycle.  ATC reform will address this flawed construct and allow NextGen to be managed in a sound, businesslike manner that ensures the efficiency and continued safety of our system.”



3. House chairman claims Trump favors privatizing air traffic controlNovember 18,2016

WASHINGTON — A House committee chairman says President-elect Donald Trump likes the idea of spinning off air traffic control operations from the government and placing them under the control of a private, non-profit corporation chartered by Congress.

Rep. Bill Shuster, head of the House transportation committee, told The Associated Press that he spoke to Trump about the idea several times both before and during the presidential election.

He said he believes the president-elect would be supportive, although details would have to be worked out.

“I have spoken to him on a number of occasions and he generally likes the idea,” Shuster said. “We do need to sit down and put meat on the bones … I think in general he sees it as something that’s positive and we need to work on it.”



4. ICYMI: A4A National Media Call on the Need for Modernization and Reform of Nation’s Air Traffic Control

A4A released excerpts from a recent national media call in which six major passenger and cargo airline CEOs discussed the need for transformational Air Traffic Control reform.



5. Lawmakers React to DOT IG, GAO Reports on NextGen, ATC Reform, Nov 16, 2016 05:18 PM

Presidential Transition ToolkitThe Department of Transportation Inspector General has released a report on FAA’s NextGen implementation efforts, stating that the total costs and timeline for individual parts of the program “remain unclear.”
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) used the report to again call for the removal of Air Traffic Control duties from the FAA.

“The IG’s findings confirm my long-held belief, and the belief of many experts, that the FAA’s bureaucracy is simply unable to manage large, multi-year, technologically complex capital projects, particularly when tied to an annual funding cycle,” Chairman Shuster said in a statement. “ATC reform will address this flawed construct and allow NextGen to be managed in a sound, businesslike manner that ensures the efficiency and continued safety of our system.”

The full IG report may be accessed here.

Separately, the Government Accountability Office issued a report outlining the varying opinions – but no clear consensus – from aviation stakeholders about restructuring ATC. The GAO report found three key issue areas: organizational management, funding and financing, and transition time and related costs.

The top Democrat on the House Transportation Committee reacted to the GAO report by casting doubt on Chairman Shuster’s ATC proposal.

“Any proposal to overhaul the existing ATC system must be thoroughly vetted, not rushed through Congress just because the political landscape makes it easier,” House Transportation Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said in a statement. “This GAO report raises serious concerns about whether ATC privatization will guarantee safety, expedite new technology, and keep the ATC system, solvent — concerns which have not been addressed.”

The full GAO report is available here.



There is no proof positive in the above, but after the issuance of the Toolkit, the coincidence of other reports favored by the House Aviation Republican leader may have tarnished the aura of independence of the Office, especially during this Transition period.

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