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‘I’m here to help ... Really’

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Michael R. Updike
  • Inspector General
"I don't know where to turn?" is what I hear when someone walks into my office with a complaint. Usually they have exhausted their chain of command and have nowhere else to turn. Sometimes the supervisory chain of command is involved so they come to me directly because they are in desperate need of help. So people turn to the Inspector General for assistance and that's when I say, "I'm here to help." This is a sincere promise due to the authority given to me by Title 10, AFIs and the wing commander. I have many tools and resources I can use to help solve your issues.

The Air Force IG Complaints Program - This IG program is a leadership tool that indicates where command involvement is needed to correct systematic, programmatic, or procedural weaknesses and to ensure resources are used effectively and efficiently. My mission is to resolve problems affecting (you) and the Air Force mission promptly and objectively; create an atmosphere of trust in which issues can be objectively and fully resolved without retaliation or fear of reprisal; and assist commanders in instilling confidence in Air Force leadership. The primary charge of the IG is to sustain a credible Air Force IG system by ensuring the existence of responsive complaint investigations, and Fraud, Waste, and Abuse programs characterized by objectivity, integrity, and impartiality. Only the IG may investigate allegations of reprisal under the Military Whistleblower's Protection Act. The IG ensures the concerns of Air Force active-duty, Reserve, and Guard members, civilian employees, family members, retirees, and the best interests of the Air Force are addressed through objective fact finding.

I'm here for You - I'm separate for a reason. The concept of separate, full-time installation IGs was implemented to remove any perceived conflict of interest, lack of independence, or apprehension by Air Force members. This came as a result of the previous practice of assigning chain of command and IG roles to the same official. The installation IG is organized as a staff function reporting directly to the installation commander.

How I help the Commander(s) -- IGs are the "eyes and ears" of the commander. I keep the commander informed of potential areas of concern as reflected by trends; and function as the fact finder and honest broker in the resolution of complaints; I educate and train commanders and members of the base population on their rights and responsibilities in regard to the Air Force IG system; and help commanders prevent, detect, and correct FWA and mismanagement. Personal complaints and FWA disclosures help commanders discover and correct problems that affect the productivity and morale of assigned members. Resolving the underlying cause of a complaint may prevent more severe symptoms or costly consequences, such as reduced performance, accidents, poor quality work, poor morale, or loss of resources. Even though allegations may not be substantiated, the evidence or investigation findings may reveal systemic morale or other problems that impede efficiency and mission effectiveness.

IG areas not covered - Some complaints are not really appropriate for the IG. But that does not mean I won't help you find the right agencies or person to submit your complaint. Some complaints are "referred" or "transferred" to another agency for better processing. Some things the IG will not handle include: Commander-directed inquires and investigations, Air Force Office of Special Investigations or security forces investigations, and investigations of civilian employees who have specific appeal rights under law or labor union agreements. Investigations under the authority of the Uniform Code of Military Justice or the Manual for Courts- Martial, line of duty or report of survey investigations, quality assurance in the Air Force Medical Service Boards, Air Force mishap or safety investigations, and medical incident investigations are also not covered under the IG complaint program. Additionally, the IG complaint program may not be used for matters normally addressed through other established grievance or appeal channels unless there is evidence that these channels mishandled the matter or process.

How you can help the IG - When bringing a complaint to the IG you must provide some relevant evidence that the process was mishandled or handled prejudicially before IG channels will process a complaint of mishandling. This means bring your documentation to back up your complaint, this will only strengthen your case and make it easier to sort out the facts. And please remember, when talking with any IG, you are making a protected communication, which means you are protected from any reprisal actions that may come from your complaint submission.

If you need assistance or just would like to discuss a possible complaint, please stop by our office, 8126 Hangar loop Road, Suite 130, Bldg 296; call, 813-828-4961; or e-mail, and we'll be glad to assist you.