Senate Veterans panel OKs chain-of-command shift for Inspector General

June 14, 2011

Sen. Lieu: Greater oversight of National Guard needed

SACRAMENTO – In response to repeated financial abuses by the California National Guard, the Senate Veterans Committee today approved a bill by Sen. Ted W. Lieu of Torrance that would require watchdog responsibilities to report directly to the governor.

“The hard work and commitment of our men and women in uniform continues to be overshadowed by individuals whose greed allowed them to game the system,” Lieu, a lawyer and former U.S. Air Force prosecutor, said before the Senate Veterans Committee approved Senate Bill 921. “These abuses simply cannot be allowed to ever happen again.”

Lieu, a Democrat, said years of legislative hearings and media investigations have revealed repeated examples of National Guard members illegally receiving excessive pay and benefits because of false and misleading record keeping.

Many of the violations uncovered separately by the Veterans Committee and The Sacramento Bee were due to the inability of the Inspector General within the state Military Department to exercise appropriate oversight within the chain of command, Lieu said.
In 2005 and 2006, for example, the Legislature reviewed mismanagement and abuse from earlier in the decade, and recent Bee reports documented excessive pay for flight duty and related overpayments for services not performed.

Lieu said the state IG position established by his bill mirrors the responsibilities of the federal IG and is intended to provide independent investigations of allegations of misconduct by senior Military Department officers.

“SB 921 simply removes the Inspector General out of the chain of command and would require the IG to report directly to the governor,” Lieu said. “While I believe the current leadership within the National Guard will make the necessary reforms, I am most fearful of when today’s leaders or the Senate Veterans Committee is no longer here with a watchful eye.”

SB 921 now goes to the full Senate. No date has yet been set.