Cover: US Inspectors General


U.S. Inspectors General

Truth Tellers in Turbulent Times

Charles A. Johnson, Kathryn E. Newcomer
Release Date: December 3, 2019

How officials reporting to both executive officials and congressional representatives work to keep the government honest, efficient, and effective.

Inspectors general are important players in the federal government, and their work often draws considerable public attention when one of them uncovers serious misdeeds or mismanagement that make the headlines. This book by two experts in public policy provides a comprehensive, up-to-date examination of how inspectors general have operated in the four decades since Congress established the offices to investigate waste, fraud, and mismanagement at federal agencies and to promote efficiency and effectiveness in government programs.

Unique among federal officials, inspectors general are independent of the agencies they monitor, and they report to the executive and legislative branches of government. One key factor in their independence is that they are expected to be non-partisan and carry out their work without regard to partisan interests.

The authors of U.S. Inspectors General: Truth Tellers in Turbulent Times emphasize the “strategic environment” in which inspectors general work and interact with a variety of stakeholders, inside and outside the government. Their new book is based on in-depth case studies, a survey of inspectors general, and a review of public documents related to the work of inspectors general. It will be of interest to scholars and students of public policy and public management, journalists, and ordinary citizens interested in how the government works—or doesn’t work—on their behalf.

Praise for U.S. Inspectors General

“In this age of ‘alternative truths,’ Johnson and Newcomer underline the continuing importance of IGs in counterbalancing the centrifugal forces of today’s polarized politics. This book provides a studied perspective useful for IGs and the people and institutions who work with them. In addition, Truth Tellers should help political observers and opinion leaders to have more reasoned debate about the contributions of IGs and their offices.”
—Brett S. Sharp, Public Integrity

“Readers will learn the varieties of performance inspectors general monitor across different government agencies, and also the specific things they must confront—the latter particularly fraught in the present partisan, polarized time. The book concludes with recommendations for reform. Essential.”
—D. Schultz, CHOICE

“It’s one thing to wage war on waste. But this book builds on that foundation the critical step: using that information to improve the way the federal government is managed. This is an enormously important contribution that deserves to be widely read by anyone who cares about how government works.”
—Donald F. Kettl, professor and academic director, LBJ Washington Center, The University of Texas at Austin

“This fast, accessible book is essential reading for understanding the role of the federal inspectors general in policing and improving government today. The IGs are, indeed, truth-tellers, but telling the truth is increasingly difficult in our desperate times. Johnson and Newcomer provide essential recommendations for making sure the IGs can succeed in their often contested work. Congress should convert this book into legislation as soon as possible to make sure the IGs have the resources and protection they need. The nation’s future may depend on doing so.”
—Paul C. Light, Paulette Goddard Professor of Public Service, Robert Wagner School of Public Service, New York University


Charles Johnson is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Dean Emeritus of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University.

Kathryn Newcomer is a Professor at the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at George Washington University.