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Pentagon’s Top Watchdog Plays Subdued yet Essential Role in Ukraine

Pentagon's top watchdog has quiet but vital role in Ukraine (Credits: The Hill)

Robert Storch, the Inspector General (IG) of the Defense Department, has a monumental task overseeing one of the largest organizations in the world.

With the ongoing US support for Ukraine and the recent hospitalization scandal of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Storch’s duties have only grown. The Pentagon, he notes, “is so big that it does everything government does,” and as an oversight entity, his office must have all the tools necessary to conduct comprehensive oversight.

The Pentagon (Credits: The Nation)

Storch’s team is currently focused on overseeing the $113 billion in aid sent to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion. While his office has found some issues with tracking weapons, he believes both Washington and Kyiv are handling the process responsibly.

However, as an IG, Storch is in the “trust but verify” business and has staff on the ground in Ukraine to ensure assistance is going to the right place.

In addition to programmatic oversight, Storch’s office also conducts investigative work to prevent diversion of assistance and criminal conduct. He is proud of his team’s work, including a new website that tracks US aid to Ukraine, which he describes as a “convenient one-stop shop” for transparency.

Storch’s background includes working as a federal prosecutor for over two decades, focusing on corruption and white-collar crime. He joined the IG community to “give back” and eventually came to appreciate the privilege and responsibility of ensuring government integrity and efficiency.

The Pentagon (Credits: Responsible Statecraft)

One of the biggest tasks Storch faces is conducting audits of the Pentagon, which has failed six audits in a row and often can’t account for billions of dollars. He attributes this to outdated financial management systems, but notes that progress is being made, such as the US Marines passing an audit this year.

Storch also launched an inquiry into Defense Secretary Austin’s hospitalization, which was not disclosed to the White House and top administration officials until three days after he was in the intensive care unit. He believes in transparency and accountability, stating, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant – we want to do that in everything we do.”

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