One of the least understood organizations within the military command is that of the Inspector General (IG). Throughout my career, I have often overheard conversations among Soldiers who talked about “going to IG” to right some perceived wrong. Now that I regularly represent servicemembers accused of misconduct, I occasionally have clients asked me whether an IG complaint was part of my representation strategy for them.
The commonly held perception that the IG is a powerful weapon for individual servicemembers, just waiting to be unleashed against leaders who don’t do right by their personnel. The reality is something else.
I have the upmost respect for the inspector general function and those who carry it out. I have had great relationships with many IG officers, and my greatest Army mentor eventually became The Inspector General (TIG) as a lieutenant general.
But it is essential that individual servicemembers understand that the inspector general (IG) function is not about righting wrongs or championing individuals. It is about enforcing standards. Those standards originate in regulations and other clearly parsed out rules.
Each service has a slightly different mission statement for its Inspector General, but they are generally parallel. For the Army, it is to “provide impartial, objective and unbiased advice and oversight to the Army through relevant, timely and thorough inspection, assistance, investigations, and training.” For the Navy, it is to “inspect, investigate, or inquire into any and all matters of importance to the Department of the Navy and maintain the highest level of public confidence.”
Essentially, the IG exists to make sure the command follows its own rules.
If an organization is generally in compliance with its own standards, then all is well.
This means that often a servicemember might be disappointed to find out the IG finds against them, or even refuses to take their complaints, because technically the command followed the correct steps when it did whatever issue the servicemember is upset about. When that issue involves an ongoing investigation or prosecution of the servicemember, the IG will avoid getting involved because it simply isn’t their lane.
The point to remember is that the IG is not there to make things “fair,” and the IG will not interfere with an ongoing UCMJ action or criminal investigation. Can the IG be a great resource for to correct other deficiencies? Absolutely. But it is not the right tool for you if you are accused of misconduct and unhappy about how things are being handled. The better answer is to seek the advice of qualified legal counsel who can effectively advise and advocate on your behalf.
If you happen to be someone under investigation by the IG, we highly recommend that you get in contact with us immediately. IG investigations can often lead to adverse administrative action and even punishment under the UCMJ.
Our firm specializes in these kinds of investigations and can help you navigate that stressful and challenging process.
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