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Understanding the Inspector General

By Master Sgt. David J. Gonzales and Sgt. 1st Class Victoria M. Calderon

Nov. 13, 2017

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Understanding the Inspector General

"What can the Inspector General do for me?" We hear this question often. Many leaders, Soldiers, retirees, and family members are unaware of the primary functions of the IG.

Dating back to the Revolutionary War and Maj. Gen. Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, the IGs' have a long history in the U.S. military. Recruited for the Continental Army by Benjamin Franklin, von Steuben created the very first drill manual known as the "Blue Book", for creating a well-drilled fighting force. Von Steuben established the foundation for the IG to assist commanders by increasing unit's readiness and warfighting capabilities.

Today, IGs' serve as the extended eyes, ears, voice, and conscience of their commanders. They assist commanders by exercising the four primary IG functions: teaching & training, assistance, inspections, and investigations.

Leaders are conditioned to fear the IG; common phrases that are heard when IGs contact leaders are, "Who's in trouble?" or "What did I do?"  Many leaders believe they have to watch what is said around the IGs. Contrary to this perception, IGs are a tool for commanders and leaders to ensure standards, regulations, and policies are followed.

Inspectors General serve in a position of trust, bound by U.S. Code and Army Regulations and the information gathered is confidential. Confidentiality allows Soldiers and leaders to feel comfortable in contacting the IGs without risk of judgment or reprisal.

Army regulation protects and governs the release of IG records in order to safeguard the confidentiality of a complainant. These records belong to the Secretary of the Army who has delegated release authority to The Army Inspector General.

Joining the IG Team

A position with the IG is a highly sought after, career-broadening assignment. Select officers, warrant officers, and noncommissioned officers are nominated to serve as IGs by U.S. Army Human Resources Command or the local command. Nomination packets go to the Department of the Army inspector general Office and the TIG for approval. If approved, nominees must complete the Army inspector general School and are sworn in upon assignment. While serving as a Detailed Inspector General (officer or warrant officer) or an Assistant Inspector General (NCOs), Soldiers will notice improvements in their writing, and training abilities, while gaining regulatory knowledge. Upon completion of a two or three year tour, Soldiers will gain better knowledge of Army operations and how they function together to accomplish the mission branches. 

So what does the IG do for the Army? The following three functions show how the IG enhances the overall warfighting and readiness capabilities of the Army.

Teaching & Training

Teaching and training are the foundation of everything the IG does. It is responsible for teaching and training Soldiers in Army policies and regulations. Through this support, Army leaders stay current on policies and regulations.

IGs also have the responsibility of supporting education at all levels by attending post commander and first sergeant courses, supporting unit professional development programs, and participating in installations or newcomer briefings. The goal of the IG's involvement in these courses is to ensure Soldiers know it is there to assist.

The IG is also a resource for unit leaders in re-establishing unit systems such as standard operating procedures after redeployment.  Because they are the primary fact finders for the Army, IGs become helpful when units lose seasoned officers and NCOs due to permanent change of station, separation, or retirement.


Assistance cases make up the majority of the IGs workload. They provide leaders and Soldiers the ability to seek help on matters effecting their health, welfare, and personal readiness.

While it is a Soldier's right to contact the IG, NCOs should use their chain of command. In many cases, leaders could have addressed the issues brought to the IGs attention if they were aware of the situation. However, if Soldiers do not wish to contact their chain of command, the IG is available to assist.

Commanders and NCOs are also encouraged to seek assistance from the IG. There may be situations when they have questions or need to know the appropriate action to take. If commanders and NCOs have questions which require assistance, the local IG office is able to assist. Knowing the appropriate policy, regulation, or standard to base their actions on will assist leaders in taking care of their Soldiers.


Inspections are an IG function that dates back to von Steuben. Inspections allow IGs to evaluate readiness and warfighting across the Army. The IG does this by evaluating the effectiveness of Army policies by determining the root cause of noncompliance. Root causes are determined by three factors: do not know, cannot comply, and will not comply.  Based on these findings, IGs recommend possible changes to policy.

Inspections should affect an organization's functional systems, those areas which come together at various echelons of command to ensure units are able to perform their wartime missions. The three types of inspections are special, general, and the follow-up. Special inspections focus on a single topic, facilitating a systemic approach, and are the preferred inspection type.

General inspections are a broad scope type of inspection and normally focused on units. The purpose of general inspections is to look at all aspects of an organization's activities and functions.

Follow-up inspections review the corrections of a previously conducted General or Special Inspection.

Commanders from brigade to company level, including command sergeants major and first sergeants, must be familiar with the Organizational Inspection Program's command inspections. There are two types of inspections under the Command Inspection Program: Initial Command Inspection and Subsequent Command Inspections.

The ICI provides new battalion and company commanders a gauge of their unit's strengths and weaknesses upon assuming command. The inspections take place within 90 days of taking command. Brigade and battalion commanders must plan and include this inspection on the training schedule so it can achieve its purpose in evaluating the condition of the unit. The results of the ICI will enable the new commander to set goals for unit improvement.

An SCI measures the progress made since the last ICI by reinforcing the goals and standards which were previously established. Inspecting commanders, (the next level commanders who ordered the inspection) must ensure that the inspected commander receives ample time to make corrections prior to the inspections and ensure that SCIs take place no earlier than one year after the ICI.

Command sergeants major and first sergeants are the commander's senior enlisted advisors and fulfill a vital role in advising and providing recommendations on topics that effect a unit. Commanders consider their senior NCO's recommendations and make decisions so their unit operates effectively. Senior NCOs need to ensure commanders are set up for success by supporting and assisting Staff Assistance Visits. SAVs are not inspections, but are a teaching and training opportunity for the unit's staff.


During investigations, the IG acts as a fair and impartial fact finder for the commander. There are two types of investigations: whistleblower reprisal and referred allegations.

Whistleblower reprisal investigations must be conducted by the IG office according to 10 USC 1034 Protected Communications;1 prohibition of retaliatory personnel actions and Department of Defense Directive DoDD 7050.06 2. Military Whistleblower Protection defines "whistleblower reprisal" as, "No person may take or threaten to take an unfavorable personnel action or withhold or threaten to withhold a favorable personnel action in reprisal against any servicemember for making or preparing to make, or being perceived as making or preparing to make a protected communication."

This type of allegation has to meet the following four elements of proof:

  1. Was there a protected communication made?
  2. a. Protected communications are those communications made to but not limited to, an IG; Member of Congress; organization chain of command starting at the immediate supervisor level; law enforcement organization.
  3. Was an unfavorable personal action taken against the person making the protected communication?
  4. Did the person making the unfavorable personal action know about the protected communication?
  5. Was this unfavorable personal action going to occur regardless of the protective communication?3

Referred allegations can result from any violation of regulations, policies or standards. Referred allegations may be filed during the process of resolving a complaint of possible wrongdoing, and are sent to the appropriate commander for investigation. The investigating commander will handle any adverse action resulting from an investigation or inquiry. IGs do not recommend punishment nor can IG records be used for adverse action without the approval of TIG.

Joint Inspector General Duties

Joint IGs are officers, NCOs, and civilians from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard assigned to duty in a joint command activity, combatant commands or joint task forces. Functions for joint IGs are identical to the Army IG functions but have an added degree of difficulty.

Being able to understand sister service regulations helps joint IG NCOs understand their operations and decisions.  Equally important for NCOs to understand are the Department of Defense, U.S. Central Command, and local policies as they apply to their duties.


Inspectors General strive to be fair and impartial fact finders who understand the importance of confidentially. NCOs should contact the IG whenever they are unsure or unclear of regulation, policy, or standard. If any Soldiers or NCOs have questions concerning the IG they are welcomed to contact their installations IG office.

Army Regulation 20-1, Inspector General Activities and Procedures.


  1. 10 USC 1034 Protected communications; Prohibition of Retaliatory Personnel Actions
  2. Department of Defense Directive DoDD 7050.06 Military Whistleblower Protection, April 17, 2015
  3. DOD 7050.6