Inspections are one way to determine if organizations and units are adhering with standards. One role the Inspector General, or IG, has is to provide their directing authority, normally the commanding general, or CG, a means of unit and organizational oversight, and IG inspections are normally the method used to provide it.
IG inspections are not intended to demean or harass units. Almost all IG actions, to include inspections, cannot be used as the basis for adverse action. That is to say virtually everything the IG does cannot be used as grounds for punishment. IG inspections assess units through identifying findings, observations and sharing good news stories. Findings and observations are collected throughout an inspection, but neither individuals nor units are specifically named or otherwise identified.
Findings and observations start with a finding statement. Finding statements use terms such as “few,” “some” or “most.” Through using such terms, the IG protects individual and unit identifying information and confidentiality. One example of a finding-statement for a finding/observation is, “few units have not appointed their voting assistance officer [VAO].”
Immediately following the finding statement in a finding, the IG states the standard or standards. If no regulatory standard applies, then the finding becomes an observation. Our example continues with this standard, “AR 608-20, Para 2-14a. ‘Appoint, in writing, unit VAOs (in the grades of first lieutenant/sergeant first class or above) in all units with 25 or more permanently assigned members.’”
The next step is identifying the “root cause” of the finding or observation using the root-cause-analysis model. This model identifies reasons why findings and observations exist, such as the example of “few units have not identified and trained their voting assistance officer.” The model has three possible reasons why a finding occurred: don’t know; can’t comply; or won’t comply. An applicable unit either doesn’t know about the standard (the need for having an identified and trained voting assistance officer); the unit can’t comply with the standard (such as not having the resources required); or the unit knows about the standard but isn’t interested in adhering to it.
After the root cause is identified and captured, inspectors general complete findings or observations by providing problem-solving recommendations for the finding or observation. To finish the ‘finding’ example, “Recommend all units appoint their voting assistance officer in accordance with the regulatory standard stated in AR 608-20, Para 2-14a.”
IG inspections also have other impacts on individuals and units. Units usually know in advance the IG is going to conduct an inspection and they will normally prepare for it. Units typically review regulatory standards and refocus their efforts to ensure they are operating within those standards. Units review unit personnel appointment orders, make sure they have the appropriate personnel, and they are properly trained. If a unit is unsure of what the IG will be inspecting, they must contact the IG for more information.
The process of completing an IG inspection includes compiling all findings, observations and good news stories into the final inspection report. Once completed, the report is submitted to the CG for review. Once the CG is briefed and has reviewed the report, it is then distributed to all units.
Commanders review final inspection reports to see how all units and organizations fared during the inspection and review recommendations, which are then normally implemented in part or verbatim by each commander in order to improve their own individual unit or organization.