STUTTGART, Germany — Among the assets being siphoned off by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the people with the job of making sure others are doing the right things.
Inspectors general and other investigators said last week that they’ve had to adjust their priorities to compensate for diminished staffing.
As a result, whistleblowers and others who see cracks in the system, or have nowhere else to turn, have fewer people to turn to.
“If you have fewer folks in your office, it’s harder to be proactive,” said Col. Michael P. Anderson, inspector general at the U.S. European Command. “You’re more in a reactive mode.”
“We lost two [noncommissioned officers] to transformation,” said Lt. Col. Brad Hixon, inspector general for the Kaiserslautern-based 21st Theater Support Command, whose shop now has three people. “Hopefully, we’ll get two back.
“We have to have NCOs to talk to the junior soldiers, because junior soldiers won’t talk to me — they like talking to the NCOs.”
Nearly 30 inspectors general, who are senior and field-grade troops tabbed for temporary duty, plus a few civilians, were turning to one another on Tuesday and Wednesday.
They went to Stuttgart at Anderson’s invitation to trade business cards, find out who does what and, it is hoped, create some Europe-wide synergy to fight fraud and waste, unprofessionalism and other dysfunctions in the military.
“The trade-off is IGs or war fighters,” Anderson said. “What would you rather have?”
The European Command shop used to have eight permanent jobs, Anderson said. Now it has four, plus a few temporary hires.
His staff recently oversaw a morale survey of 300 employees at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch and is performing a command climate survey of 900 staffers at EUCOM.
Anderson said those are more finely tuned ways to help commanders than the blanket inspections of the past.
Anderson said his boss, EUCOM deputy commander Gen. William E. Ward, has been reasonable in his requests.
“He is tasking us within our means,” Anderson said.
But small taskings can pay big dividends.
During a meeting last fall with Bosnia-Herzegovina’s inspector general, it was discovered the Bosnians had a cache of 1 million rounds of 7.62 mm bullets, 4,500 AK-47 rifles and 400 machine guns. The Bosnians were persuaded to donate the weaponry to the Afghanistan national army, and in exchange received the NATO Partnership for Peace status that they coveted.
Inspectors general also work within organizations such as Department of Defense Dependents Schools, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service and medical commands and are available to family members as well as military sponsors.
For job issues such as pay problems, botched promotion packets, and spousal nonsupport, inspectors general such as Hixon say they could use more NCO help.
“I enlisted as a private in the Army, and I was intimidated by the officers,” the lieutenant colonel said. “There was an invisible barrier there.
“That’s why NCOs are critical to me, and that’s why I need NCOs more than officers in my shop.”