Inspectors general are executive branch officers who serve at the pleasure of the president. But they are also vital watchdogs tasked with ensure both the efficient and the legal operation of the departments they oversee. As inspectors general may often discover and expose politically embarrassing mistakes or even criminal activity, they are often in conflict with the administrations they serve. Nonetheless, their independence is a vital element of our system of checks and balances. What is the best method of protecting inspectors general from political interference? How can these protections be implemented without impermissible intruding on presidential authority?
The current Vacancies Act, passed in 1998, is the latest iteration in an ongoing-struggle to balance the need for efficiency and continuity with the requirement that the Senate approve presidential appointments found in Article 2, § 2 of the U.S. Constitution. The statutory scheme is confusing, in that there is often more than one method by which a vacancy can be filled. It also allows the president to staff key positions for up to 17 months at a time with “acting heads” who have never been senatorially confirmed in their positions. If a president is willing to openly game the system, he can make do with unconfirmed executive officers for years. Should the Vacancies Act be reformed both to rationalize […]