- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 3, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon’s inspector general is resigning after just more than a year on the job and at a time when defense spending has skyrocketed but personnel shortfalls in the oversight office have strained its ability to probe allegations of waste, fraud and abuse.

Claude Kicklighter, 74, who took over as Pentagon inspector general in April 2007, will be replaced by Gordon Heddell, who has been the Labor Department’s inspector general since January 2001.

The Defense Department announced the changes Wednesday. Mr. Heddell would be the third person to hold the office since September 2005 when Joseph Schmitz resigned to be chief operating officer and general counsel for the Prince Group, which owns security contractor Blackwater Worldwide.

Mr. Schmitz’s more than three-year tenure was marred by allegations he improperly interfered with two ongoing investigations to protect senior Bush administration officials.

In a March 31 report to Congress, Mr. Kicklighter’s office outlined major challenges in overseeing the military’s perpetually growing budgets and bureaucracy.

The office estimated that nearly half of the military’s $316 billion weapons budget went unchecked last year because the IG’s office lacked the manpower. A decade ago a single auditor would have reviewed some $642 million in defense contracts, but individual investigators are now charged with auditing more than $2 billion in spending.

Meanwhile, the White House has done an about-face and given the Army permission to add five new generals who would oversee purchasing and monitor contractor performance.

In early May, the Army was told by the Office of Management and Budget, President Bush‘s administrative arm, that it already had enough generals and rejected the plan to increase the numbers in its upper ranks.

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