Things are only getting worse for the Administration, but that’s what they should expect when intentionally misleading the American people. Scandal after scandal is coming to light, and today Attorney General Eric Holder is testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, which I sit on. You can watch the hearing live at 1pm ET/12pm CT here. I am really looking forward to holding him accountable for his actions at the Department of Justice, but I want to know what you would #AskEric if you could sit in on the hearing. I posted this question on Facebook and Twitter yesterday, and it’s not too late to tell me what you would #AskEric. Post your questions in the comments section and I may ask them during today’s hearing.
Last week, the House Oversight Committee, which I also sit on, held a hearing on the continuing investigation of what happened in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012. We brought in former US State Department employees who wanted to tell their stories about what they experienced on the ground in Libya the day of the attack.
I began my round of questioning round by expressing my deepest condolences to the families of the four men killed during the attack. I then touched on the fact that one of the whistleblowers, Mr. Greg Hicks, the former Deputy Chief of Mission/Chargé d’Affairs in Libya, was not permitted to read the State Department’s Accountability Review Board (ARB) report, even though he was on the ground in Libya, directly involved in the events following the attack, and had the proper security clearance.
Following that exchange, I questioned one of the witnesses about the fact that the State Department was relying on a militia with ties to Islamic extremists to protect American diplomats in Benghazi.
Security expert Mr. Eric Nordstrom responded that this is a widespread problem in protecting Americans abroad, and has led to security problems and even attacks in places like Afghanistan, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia.
“It was the best bad plan,” Mr. Nordstrom said.
“I certainly hope that these hearings result in us not having to rely on ‘the best bad plan’ when securing our personnel abroad,” I concluded.
Many members of the committee, myself included, expressed the need for more hearings looking into the facts that were brought to light, in an effort to ensure that nothing like this happens again. Video from the hearing is below, as well as interviews I did over the weekend on Fox News and MSNBC (right).
IRS Targets Conservative Groups
I’m sure by now you’ve read the news reports about the IRS intentionally targeting conservative groups seeking nonprofit status. I am profoundly disturbed by this, and no matter what your political affiliation, it should trouble you too.
I just signed onto H.R. 1950, legislation that makes it a crime for an IRS employee to execute any type of targeted discrimination. Free speech rights are expressly guaranteed under the Constitution, and any kind of discriminatory targeting must be fully investigated, especially if top IRS officials knew about it, and then publicly denied it. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on this issue, as I intend to monitor it closely.
Better Processing of Federal Workers Pension Claims
The Subcommittee I chair held a hearing last week looking into the time it takes the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to process federal worker pension claims.
After all, 2.5 million retired federal workers and their survivors rely on their pension check every month to make ends meet. What’s shocking to me is that OPM, who administers these checks, does it the same way today that they did it in 1987. This lack of modernization has resulted in a backlog of 30,000 claims, while the OPM averages $100 million each year in payments to deceased annuitants and survivors.
During the questioning portion, I spoke to the benefits of using technology to modernize and streamline OPM’s processing of retired federal employee pension claims.
“Do you see some things that OPM could do immediately to kick the technology up, save some time and get the claims processed faster?” I asked government IT expert Valerie Melvin.
“The approach that they are taking now, which we see as a very modest, incremental step…is probably a prudent and risked-based approach for them to take, given their inability to be successful with such initiatives in the past,” replied Ms. Melvin.
I then asked the same question to Dr. Kettner, whose company, Economic Systems Inc., specializes in data entry software.
“I think there are certainly steps that could be taken immediately, and I think you’re entirely correct in thinking that more could be done at the agency level. That’s where the data comes from and where much more can be done. There is no reason in the world the data should not be given to OPM electronically,” concluded Mr. Kettner.
Video from that hearing is below.
Tweets from Last Week