Officials from the Defense Department’s Office of Inspector General hosted government officials, academics and journalists from 19 countries this week for a discussion on their roles in ensuring accountability and transparency within the United States’ largest federal agency.  This is the last of a series of four similar meetings for over 60 participants from 37 countries.

Troy M. Meyer, DOD’s deputy inspector general for overseas contingency operations, provided an in-depth overview of the department’s system of checks and balances and underscored the importance of maintaining Americans’ trust in their military and in their government.  

The exchange was held as part of the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program, or IVLP, which aims to develop lasting relationships between emerging foreign leaders and their counterparts in the U.S.   

“The citizens of our country have the right to know how their money is being spent, how decisions are being made, and public officials should be transparent about that,” Meyer told the group seated around a large conference table in the Pentagon.  

The DOD OIG is the largest of the 74 IG offices in the federal government. It employs 1,800 auditors, investigators, evaluators, attorneys and support staff, who provide critical oversight over the department’s budget and key programs.  

“Our mission is to detect and deter fraud, waste and abuse, promote the economy and efficiency of [DOD] programs, and to ensure the ethical conduct of its employees,” Meyer said.  

That mission has become increasingly important in recent years, Meyer said, amid Americans’ declining trust in the U.S. government as a whole.

“Budget deficits and highly publicized scandals in the federal government have made addressing fraud, waste and abuse a constant national priority within our country,” he said. “Every dollar that is lost, stolen or wasted is one less dollar that would be spent for its intended purpose, whether that’s enhancing national security, improving infrastructure or feeding the hungry.”

Meyer drew from real-world audits and criminal and administrative investigations in describing DOD OIG’s work to ensure transparency and accountability across the department.   

Much of that oversight extends to overseas operations, further highlighting the value of relationships between U.S. officials and their foreign counterparts, like those that are formed through the IVLP. 

The DOD OIG, for example, has worked extensively alongside the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development offices of inspectors general, and the Government Accountability Office to provide extensive oversight of U.S. assistance to Ukraine following Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.   

The U.S. watchdogs have completed more than 92 audits, evaluations and advisories related to U.S. assistance to Ukraine, according to agency figures posted to the interagency Ukraine oversight website.

Another 80 projects are ongoing. In addition, law enforcement from DOD, the State Department, and USAID offices of inspectors general and partners reported 62 open investigations that involve grant and procurement fraud, corruption, theft, program irregularities, and counter-proliferation of technology of weapons systems components.  

Those oversight efforts have included close coordination between U.S. inspectors and their Ukrainian counterparts to ensure transparency over U.S. funds.  

Throughout Meyer’s presentation, the participants had the opportunity to ask questions ranging from how DOD OIG balances classification and security with transparency to the role of technology in performing detailed audits.

That is precisely the level of dialogue the IVLP is designed to foster through engagements that align with participants’ professional interests.  

Since 1940, the IVLP has hosted more than 225,000 participants for exchanges focused on topics ranging from women’s leadership and youth leadership to promoting cybersecurity and combatting transnational crime.   

This week’s engagement at the Pentagon was part of a series of exchanges focused specifically on transparency and accountability in government. 

“It’s an absolutely eye-opening experience for us all,” said Shivan Essa, a public relations manager for the Kurdistan regional government’s prime minister’s office in Iraq, who attended the exchange.

“I think this is a great opportunity for us to learn, to exchange views, [and] to listen to ideas,” he said. “We are a group of international officers, politicians that came, and we sit at the same table to discuss global issues.”  

He added that the exchange has been the experience of a lifetime.   

Constanza Fernanda, a professor of international relations and counselor in Chile’s Council of Foreign Policy, said the IVLP is a critical program for defending shared liberal values throughout the globe.   

She said defending those values is becoming increasingly important amid rising geopolitical tensions.  

“This experience is life-changing for me because it not only allowed us to know more in depth about what the United States is doing in terms of defense and international security, but also what it’s doing in terms of transparency and making sure that democracy is protected and reinforced all around the world,” she said.   

Meyer, who has hosted several cohorts as part of IVLP, said participating in the program has been a highlight of his career.   

“These exchanges are just invaluable,” he said. “It makes me appreciate how unique the inspector general system is. I’ve been doing this for so long. Sometimes I feel like I take it for granted, but it’s very grounding when I meet with people and realize our system is very unique and special.  

“The people I engage with want a similar system in their countries, and they’re trying to learn how to implement such a system,” he added. “I think it’s just amazing that I have the opportunity to engage and talk to them about what I know and my experiences.” 

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