Complaints against 13 general officers and general officers-select are handled exclusively by a team of investigators at the Pentagon. Here is what you need to know:
1. The investigators. Complaints to the Air Force inspector general against any active-duty, Air National Guard or Air Force Reserve general officer or general officer-select land in the office of senior official inquiries at the Pentagon.
Here, a group of investigating officers — all colonels with command experience and at least two decades of military service — work hand in hand with Air Force lawyers assigned to the office.
2. Case accepted or dismissed. An intake decision quickly determines whether the IG is going to accept a complaint as a case or dismiss it. Last year, 72 of the 85 complaints against this cadre of senior officers and other high-ranking officials, including civilian Senior Executive Service employees, made it to investigation, said Col. Matthew Bartlett, director of senior official inquiries for the IG.
“Some are anonymous and there’s not enough information to launch an investigation. Some complaints are a person’s opinion rather than [an allegation of] misconduct,” Bartlett said.
Others are not timely; the inspector general isn’t required to look at most allegations that are more than 60 days old, although there are some exceptions to that, Bartlett said.
3. Getting more details. Once a case is accepted, it moves into a preliminary inquiry. “First we’ll talk to the complainant. There is quite a bit more detail than what would just come in on a complaint form. This can take from 30 minutes to three hours to fully understand the allegations,” Bartlett said.
The investigator will gather any additional evidence and interview witnesses. If he or she determines misconduct may have occurred, an official investigation is launched.
“If we don’t uncover evidence or we find everything was done properly, we can dismiss it,” Bartlett said. “If not, the senior official is advised and put on notice.”
4. Formal investigations. About half of all complaints will be formally investigated, he said. The subject of the allegation is interviewed and given the chance to offer up their own witnesses, evidence and explanations.
5. Final step. The office of senior official inquiries substantiates about 25 percent of all allegations each year, Bartlett said, a number that has remained consistent for a decade.
“We write up our report, submit it to the [inspector general of the Air Force], he signs and approves it,” he said. “If we find evidence of misconduct, [the case] is sometimes held at the secretary’s or chief of staff’s office, depending on the level of the senior official. Usually, it’s referred to that [individual’s] command chain to take command action.”
The IG doesn’t recommend what action to take. But commands must report disciplinary actions to the IG, which then reports them to the Defense Department inspector general.