Biden Names Pick for Pentagon Watchdog, Filling Job That’s Been Vacant for Half a Decade

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Robert Storch has been nominated as the Pentagon's new inspector general.
Robert Storch, who has been the National Security Agency/Central Security Service inspector general since January 2018, has been nominated to be the Pentagon’s new inspector general. (Photo courtesy of NSA.gov)

President Joe Biden has tapped the current top watchdog for the National Security Agency to take on the same role for the Pentagon.

The White House announced Monday that Biden will nominate Robert Storch, who has been the National Security Agency/Central Security Service inspector general since January 2018, to be the Pentagon's inspector general.

The Pentagon has been without a Senate-confirmed inspector general since the end of the Obama administration in January 2016.

For four of those years, the inspector general's office was led on an acting basis by Glenn Fine. 

But in April 2020, then-President Donald Trump demoted Fine after he had been chosen by his fellow IGs across the government to lead a committee overseeing how funding to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic was being spent. Demoting him meant he could no longer lead that committee. Fine resigned from the inspector general's office altogether in June 2020.

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Fine's demotion came amid a broader attack by Trump against inspectors general conducting oversight of his administration. During a span of a few weeks in 2020, Trump also fired, demoted or otherwise pushed out the watchdogs for the State Department, intelligence community, Transportation Department and the Health and Human Services Department.

Since Fine's ouster, the Pentagon's acting inspector general has been Sean O'Donnell, who is simultaneously serving as the Environmental Protection Agency's IG.

Trump nominated Jason Abend, a senior policy adviser at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, to become the Pentagon's full-time inspector general, but his nomination stalled amid concerns he did not have enough experience to be the top watchdog for an agency as massive as the Defense Department. Biden withdrew Abend's nomination in February.

Biden's nominee, Storch, is the NSA's first presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed inspector general.

A White House statement on the nomination credited Storch with helping "enhance the impact, the independence and the transparency of the office's work" by launching the office's website and regularly releasing unclassified versions of its semiannual reports to Congress.

Storch's office recently garnered attention when it announced in August it would investigate whether the NSA "improperly targeted the communications of a member of the U.S. news media" after Fox News host Tucker Carlson made inflammatory accusations on the air, without providing evidence, that the NSA was monitoring his communications in an effort to shut down his show.

Prior to becoming the NSA inspector general, Storch worked in the Justice Department's IG office, including time as the deputy inspector general and as its whistleblower ombudsperson.

Before working in the inspector general field, Storch was a federal prosecutor in Florida and New York and at the main Justice Department.

-- Rebecca Kheel can be reached at rebecca.kheel@Military.com. Follow her on Twitter @reporterkheel.

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