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“Meet the Inspector General”– What’s an Inspector General for, anyway? To accept complaints and do nothing about them. Joseph V Cuffari is supremely educated, with a PhD in “management” and will fit right in.

2020-05-29

power plant control room by Robert Balog courtesy of pixabay.com

We are blessed with loyal public servants for our inspectors general.  Otherwise, these malcontents would be summarily fired for such infractions as: publishing reports that disclose hospital complaints about the dire shortage during a pandemic of personal protective equipment in hospitals, or referring complaints received to Congress about attempts by the president to force foreign countries to announce bogus investigations of political rivals by with-holding critical military assistance against Russian aggression.

By the way, the Inspector General’s Office (OIG) (of which there are currently 73, one for each major federal government agency) does the following: ” conducts and supervises independent audits, inspections, and investigations and recommends ways [for the inspected department] to carry out its vital responsibilities in the most effective, efficient, and economical manner possible.”  What’s more, “The OIG is directly responsible for meeting the statutory mission of promoting economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in the administration of … programs and operations and to prevent and detect fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in such programs and operations.”

To be clear, inspectors general expect to receive complaints like these: “The Allegations that should be reported to the OIG Hotline include, but are not limited to: Employee corruption, civil rights and civil liberties abuses, program fraud and financial crimes, and miscellaneous criminal and non-criminal activity associated with waste, abuse, mismanagement or misconduct “.  To do his job, the IG has “Access to all relevant records, documents, and information … Authority to subpoena documents and, if necessary, to enforce that subpoena in the appropriate federal district court” and a number of other powers…

Here’s how to file a complaint with the IG: “Report Fraud Hotline Online: See form below.  Call: (800) 424-9071. (For instructions on filing a tip on a CLASSIFIED matter, call 1-800-447-8477.) Email: hotline@oig.dot.gov.  Mail: DOT Inspector General, 1200 New Jersey Ave SE, West Bldg 7th Floor, Washington, DC 20590.  Contractors may also use our online FAR Disclosure Form to report criminal or civil violations in connection with a Federal contract.”  Finally, the IG “is appointed by the President subject to Senate confirmation [and] reports to the Attorney General and Congress.” (from Google “snippets”; all of these are quotes from official federal government websites, but bolding is mine.)

The Inspector General is a contradiction: a federal employee who is supposed to be dedicated to rooting out malfeasance by other federal employees.  As such, he or she or they, if they are doing their job, has to be the most hated person in government.  They will step on toes, conduct embarrassing investigations, and reveal unwanted information about goings-on high and low.  They are sure to make enemies, in particular, the guy at the top.  Unless of course, they do nothing, which is what the IG of the DHS has chosen to do.

Recently, the muckraking online magazine Mother Jones published an expose of the weak credentials possessed by the unanimously confirmed IG for the DHS. We’ll get to that in a moment, but first, from the official DHS website, “About”: “Meet the Inspector General”:

Meet the IG

Joseph V. Cuffari was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General on July 25, 2019.  Dr. Cuffari previously served as the policy advisor for Military and Veterans Affairs for Governor Doug Ducey of Arizona, and previously for Governor Jan Brewer.  He served more than 40 years in the United States Air Force, on active duty in the Reserves, and in the Arizona Air National Guard.  He began his military service after graduating from high school and enlisting in the United States Air Force in 1977.  He served in a variety of leadership positions with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) as well as with the Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General (OIG).  He was a Commander with the AFOSI at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida; England Air Force Base, Louisiana; and Naples, Italy, with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  In 1989, he received the AFOSI Outstanding Officer of the Year Award.  He also served for more than 20 years in the Department of Justice (DOJ) in a multitude of roles dating back to 1993.  In 2013, he retired from his position as Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the Office of the Inspector General in Tucson, Arizona.  In other capacities, he has augmented the United States Senate and House Intelligence Committees and the DOJ Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development. Dr. Cuffari earned a Ph.D. in Management in 2002, an M.A in Management in 1995, and a B.S. in Business Administration and Management Information Systems in 1984.

Note that the degree-granting institutions for his MA, BS, and PhD are not shown; that’s because they reflect no credit on Joseph Cuffari.  Per Mother Jones: “The DHS Inspector General Claimed to Have a Philosophy PhD. He Doesn’t.”  The article, undated but apparently published today, goes on to state that, until Thursday (yesterday), Cuffari’s bio had him with a PhD in philosophy.  It now states that his PhD is in management, but still does not give the location from which he received his degree.

That location is “California Coast University” and this occurred in 2002.  Two years later, the General Accounting Office (GAO) described this “university” as a “diploma mill”, which it defines as one of the “nontraditional, unaccredited, postsecondary schools that offer degrees for a relatively low flat fee, promote the award of academic credits based on life experience, and do not require any classroom instruction.”

Seriously, “Dr.” Cuffari refers to himself as “Joseph Cuffari, PhD”, which would be reasonable if his diploma mill were accredited, but it was not.  In fact, “California Coast University” was established in 1973 using a name (California Western University) that was the same as another well-known university (until 1968, when it changed its name).  Its founder claimed in 1990 that a student could obtain their PhD in less than a year.  The school was based in a small office building in Orange County that is now home to a 7-11 and a Subway sandwich shop. The school was not accredited until 2005– at which time the accrediting agency (the Distance Education Accrediting Commission) restricted it from offering doctoral programs at all.  This damning paragraph from Mother Jones:

After I mentioned those details to Cuffari’s spokesperson, the inspector general’s office contacted California Coast University and then clarified that the school was “approved by the State of California to award degrees of higher education, including doctoral degrees” when Cuffari was enrolled. But that approval came from the now-defunct California Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education, which okayed everything from barbering and bartending schools to a course in “Sexological Bodywork.” Officials at the bureau readily acknowledged to reporters in 2005 that they applied minimal standards, far less rigorous than accreditation. When Cuffari graduated, CCU’s degrees could not be legally used in neighboring Oregon, which was known for closely monitoring the quality of unaccredited schools.

California Coast University listed the “price of the management PhD at $4,575, a flat fee for up to five years of enrollment” and required the student to attend in person just once, to defend their dissertation.  Required coursework could be satisfied by taking examinations and by  completing “Accelerated Learning Guides” that factored in “independent reading experience.”

Thus, the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security got his PhD in philosophy/management (there’s little difference in this context) from a diploma mill for $4,575– a bargain considering the fees at traditional universities are well in excess of $10,000 a term and usually require three or more years of full-time attendance (possibly difficult when one is in the Air Force Reserve and serving as “policy advisor for Military and Veterans Affairs for [the] Governor [of Arizona]”)…  The only thing missing from this picture is the title of Cuffari’s “dissertation”.  We can imagine that it contains a number of large, multisyllabic words signifying nothing.

According to Mother Jones, the DHS has a budget of nearly $70 billion and includes the Secret Service, the Transportation Security Administration, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and three immigration agencies.  Cuffari was nominated in November 2018 and confirmed July 2019 by unanimous vote of the Senate.   Senators referred to him as “Dr. Cuffari” during the confirmation hearings (despite the general rule of etiquette that says that only MDs are supposed to be referred to in this way, snark snark.)

A statement from the notorious Republican Senator Ron Johnson in support of Cuffari’s nomination claimed he has “decades of experience in government oversight and investigations” (except that he doesn’t, not as an actual investigator or manager.)  There was no mention of any management positions in his resume or bio, anywhere in government, the military, or private business.

It is too much to ask for a high-level government employee from the Civil Service who has experience in an Inspector General’s Office who has actually done tough audits or is even an auditor.  No one is available who oversees legally difficult investigations of a secretive branch of government.  It is too much to ask that he perhaps have a real degree in law, actual experience in management of another branch of government, or experience conducting sensitive investigations, inspections, or audits of any kind.

There’s no one who has a position on anything other than loyalty to the Commander in Cheat.  There are no Civil Service employees who are loyal and could step into the shoes of the retired IG.  There’s no one available with either a law degree, still in good standing with their state Bar, or relevant managerial experience who still loves the Boss unreservedly and doesn’t have a paper trial of disloyal comments (or any statements at all, for that matter.)

Since I’m trapped at home with nothing better to do, I Googled “IG DHS Joseph V. Cuffari” and got a few hits, including a Wikipedia page (which is considerably shorter than this blog post.)  This Washington Post article from March 17: “DHS watchdog nearly dormant as reports and audits plummet”… This complaint to the OIG from the San Diego American Civil Liberties Union on April 15 (.pdf file) : “Re: Separation of Families via CBP Detention and Processing, and the Agency’s Refusal to Implement a Detainee Locator System” (it seems that Customs and Border Control has no system for locating its detainees.)  … a complaint by the chief counsel to the Transportation Security Agency  (.pdf file of a complaint filed with a district court) that the OIG had violated her privacy and impugned her reputation by publishing an investigatory report publicly which contained implications of wrongdoing when she was found to have done nothing wrong and they found no problems (this is a good example of what an IG is NOT supposed to do to a chief counsel)…  and so on.   Finally, we learn that Cuffari is one of the IGs on the oversight board for pandemic relief funds.

Whatever his qualifications, we can be sure that Joseph Cuffari is a loyal servant of the president who would never actually sign off on critical reports about corruption, malfeasance, incompetence, or waste in the Department of Homeland Security, an agency created after 9/11/2001 to take care that no-one dares to attack our country.  Nevermind about over a hundred thousand dead Americans sacrificed to the novel coronavirus– nothing to do with our security or our health or our economy.  Let the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention handle that– oops, nevermind.

Sigh.  Why do I get the feeling that I am talking into a cardboard box?  This Cuffari is a nonentity who has been induced by money, money, and money to do nothing in his new job (he’s good at that, having done nothing most of his life) and have no opinions except to love He-who-must-not-be-named unreservedly.  He will serve as a black hole for complaints about immigration enforcement, Secret Service spending on golf carts and hotel rooms while guarding the aforementioned, and so on and on.  Why am I not surprised and how many thousands more just like him are there up there in Washington, DC right now?

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