The modern Army Inspector General is an extension of the eyes, ears, voice and conscience of the commander. The Inspector General is a personal staff officer providing the commander with a sounding board for sensitive issues. Inspectors General are honest brokers and consummate fact finders. Their primary tools include training, inspecting, assisting and investigating.
For more than 200 years, Army Inspectors General have inspected, audited, investigated, trained and performed those duties necessary to support the Army in achieving it's mission. During that time the organization and function of the American Army Inspector General system have changed considerably. This is an historical overview and functional explanation of the Army's Inspector General system. It identifies the system's unique attributes and highlights the functional areas of the Army's Inspector General system.
Historical constants of the Army Inspector General System
Throughout the history of the United States Army Inspector General, four historical constants have emerged that depict the value of Inspectors General to commanders at every level:
  • The IG is often the substitute for experience.
  • IGs are a means whereby the commander checks and instills discipline, ethics and standards.
  • IGs enable the commander to get quick responses for his own and higher level interest.
  • IGs are assigned unanticipated items necessary for the unit's successful mission accomplishment.
Origins of the Inspector General
The French Army provides us with the first examples of Inspectors General in Western culture. In 1668, an inspector general of infantry and an inspector general of cavalry were appointed, with the principle duties of reviewing the troops and reporting to the king. Louis XIV expanded the system to include geographical inspectors. They examined everything within their sphere of influence. Soon, military inspection became an essential aspect of all modern armies.
1775 - 1783
The U.S. Army Inspector General System was born during the Revolutionary War. The Continental Army, when formed in 1775, was disorganized array of militia from different states, with no uniformity in organizations, procedures, drills, appearance, or equipment. The Continental Army's leadership was not comparable to the good, solid officer leadership of the British Army, and General Washington was not satisfied with the training and readiness of his diversified forces.
By the time of the American Revolution, the appointment of inspectors, at least in functional areas, was an established routine in European armies. The tactics of the day, volley fire and massed bayonet charges, required stern discipline and extensive drill and training. It followed that commanders needed a close look at the units and their readiness.
On 29 October 1777, General Washington met with 14 general officers and decided among other things that an Inspector General for the Army was desirable. The Inspector General would superintend the training of the entire Army in order to ensure troop proficiency and common tactics. He would be the commander's agent to ensure tactical efficiency and competence of the troops. The duties envisioned were those of a "drill master general" or a "muster-master general."
At the same time, the Continental Congress recognized the need for an inspector general to provide it with information concerning a significant public investment. Therefore, the Congress understandably wanted an agent in the Army to help in accountability for the military investments. It also wanted assurances the military would remain subordinate to its authority.
This parallel Inspector General requirement created tension between the military and the civilian authorities. General Washington's preference for an Inspector General answerable only to the Army chain of command prevailed, and subsequently inspectors general were ordered to report to the Commander in Chief. However, the tension created by a dual requirement for information continues even today.
On 13 December 1777, Congress created the Inspector General of the Army. The Congressional resolution directed that the Inspector General would:
  • review the troops
  • see that officers and soldiers are instructed in exercise maneuvers established by the Board of War
  • ensure that discipline be strictly observed
  • ensure that officers command properly and treat soldiers with justice
The first Inspector General of the Army was MG Thomas Conway. Conway, an Irish soldier of fortune, resigned shortly after his appointment because he couldn't get along with anyone in the American Army, to include General Washington.
The first effective U.S. Army Inspector General was Baron Frederick William Augustus Von Steuben. Von Steuben was a former captain in the Prussian Army. He was recruited for the American Army in Paris by Benjamin Franklin in 1777. Franklin recognized that quality of von Steuben but was concerned that Congress wouldn't accept only a captain for such a position of responsibility. So Franklin "doctored" von Steuben's resume in order to present him as a former lieutenant general, a grade he knew would be acceptable to Congress.
Von Steuben was accepted as the Inspector General of the Army on a trial basis by General Washington. He reported to duty at Valley Forge in February 1778. He spoke no English but learned quickly and impressed everyone with his hard work to improve the training, drills, discipline, and organization of the Continental Army.
In May 1778, he was officially appointed Inspector General of the Army with the rank and pay of major general. Congress also appointed two ranks of inspectors general under the Inspector General, providing us the first Inspector General organization.
Many of the Continental Army's regimental colonels resented bitterly the efforts of the inspector general, whose duties as outlined by Congress included "to report all abuses, neglect and deficiencies to the Commander in Chief." It was von Steuben's character, tact and genius that overcame a great deal of this resistance and as such, set the precedent for the manner and behavior for future Inspectors General. MG von Steuben is recognized as the "Father of the Inspector General System," and significantly influenced our Army's ability to fight and win.
1783 - 1900
The size and influence of the Inspector General within the Army rose and fell, at times dramatically, during the 18th and 19th centuries. This was caused by Army strength fluctuations, changing personalities, and philosophical approaches to doing business by the senior Army policymakers of that era. During the 1790s the Inspector General was second in command of the Army. For a period after 1800 the Inspector General duties were relegated to the Department of the Adjutant General and there were several times the position of Inspector General was eliminated altogether.
The Act of 3 March 1813, which reorganized the staff of the Army, established the Inspector General's Department though it would not be until 1878 that the Department became a formal part of the Army organization. In addition to an Inspector General, the act provided for eight inspectors general and many assistant inspectors general. These inspectors general did tasks that were very inconsistent with those of a present-day Inspector General. This mix of duties was caused by not having a centrally developed doctrine that clearly defined the role of the Inspector General.
How commanders used the Inspector General improved greatly following the Civil War, when the War Department published an order defining the duties of the Inspector General. In 1876, the Secretary of War directed the Inspector General of the Army to report to the General of the Army on all subjects pertaining to military control and discipline and all "field Inspectors General " to report directly to he unit commanding general. This directive placed Inspectors General under the local commanding general's control for all matters. An inspector general was no longer a "spy" from a higher headquarters. This relationship continues today.
1900 - 1949
The greatest hindrance to Inspectors General in inspecting the "old" Army was the dispersion of its force across the globe. After 1898, Army troops were scattered around the world, occupying Caribbean Islands and trying to suppress the growing rebellion in the Philippines. By 1900, Inspectors General were inspecting all regiments deploying to the Philippine Insurrection and establishing a systematic inspectorate in the islands. The Inspector General duty to inspect units deploying for combat overseas resurfaced during World Wars I and II, the Korean War, Vietnam, Grenada, and Operation Desert Shield/Storm.
From after World War I until 1939, the number of Inspectors General in the Army changed very little and Inspector General duties remained stable. By 1940, all subordinate commanders down to and including divisions were allocated an inspector general under their direct control to conduct inspections and investigations as needed within their respective commands. By 1945, there were about 3,000 Inspectors General serving with the Army around the world.
The inspector general mission grew in importance and scope during World War II and this trend continued into the postwar Army. Of particular note was the emergence of the assistance function as we know it today. The rapid draw-down of the Army from about 9 million in 1945 to a few hundred thousand in 1946, caused the inspector general to respond to thousands of requests for help from soldiers being released from the Army (many because they weren't being released quickly enough).
1950 - 1959
The statutory basis for the current Inspector General system comes from the 1950 Army Reorganization Act. This reorganization replaced the Inspector General's Department with The Office of the Inspector General of the Army (OTIG). The Inspector General (TIG) was responsible to the Chief of Staff, Army and responsive to the Secretary of the Army. The reorganization charged TIG with inquiring into and reporting upon the discipline, efficiency, and economy of the Army. Specifically, Inspectors General were to focus their effort on training and combat readiness.
In 1952, OTIG initiated an orientation course for officers selected to be Inspectors General. Prior to this there was no specific provision for the formal instruction of Inspectors General, although the old Inspector General's Department had maintained and distributed instructional material to each Inspector General in the form of inspection and investigation guides, handbooks, and other procedural material.
A legal case in 1953 resulted in the classification of Inspector General data as having restricted access and use. Inspector General investigations and reports were declared "privileged" as a matter of law. As such, they could not be used as evidence in judicial or other proceedings, except as specifically authorized by the authority ordering the investigation or higher authority.
The qualifications for Inspectors General were first formally codified in 1957. Army Regulation 614-100 stated only the highest caliber of Army officers should be detailed as Inspectors General and should meet the following minimum qualifications:
  • Mature with broad military experience.
  • Have not previously completed a normal three year tour as an Inspector General.
  • Moral and personal traits which are necessary for a position of dignity and prestige.
The mission to conduct the indoctrination course for all officers newly detailed as Inspectors General was transferred from the OTIG Inspection Division to a newly established Field Services Division on 5 November 1956. The course, for CONUS based officer Inspectors General only, was increased to three weeks (one week inspections, one week investigations and one week procurement), averaged 53 students a course, and was taught four times a year. The frequency of presentation increased to six by FY 58 and expanded to allow selected civilian employees and NCOs assigned to Inspector General offices to attend. Also in FY 58, a modified, two week Inspector General orientation course began to be taught in selected overseas areas.
1960 - 1990
In May 1956, the Secretary of the Army directed the Department of the Army to assume responsibility for technical proficiency inspections of Army nuclear capable organizations worldwide. General Order #40, dated 24 August 1956, placed these inspections under the jurisdiction of the Inspector General. The March 1960 revised Army Regulation 20-1 for the first time provided policy concerning Inspector General technical proficiency inspections.
Inspector General Technical Bulletin #4, published in 1960, for the first time standardized the approved method and procedures for Inspectors General to receive and process Inspector General Action Requests. In 1962, an OTIG investigation looked into allegations of inefficiencies during the call up of Reserve and National Guard units during the Berlin buildup.
The US Army Inspector General philosophy began to be shared with our allies when the OTIG presented its standard course of instruction to groups composed entirely of foreign officers. In FY 61, instruction was presented to Republic of Korea Army officers in Seoul, Korea, and to Nationalist Chinese Army Officers in Taipei, Formosa.
The early 1980s heralded a significant change in the way Inspectors General did inspections. Traditionally, general inspections had focused primarily on evaluating a unit's compliance to regulations. However, purely compliance inspections tended to address symptoms rather than causes and made the assumption that policy guidance and directives were correct.
The new emphasis for Inspectors General was on a compliance-systemic inspection methodology. This focused attention on causes rather than symptoms, allowed policy errors or omissions to be addressed for resolution, traced unit problems to Army problems, emphasized correction at the proper level, and minimized the need for one-time unit inspection preparation. Follow-up inspections were also stressed, primarily to verify that corrective action was carried out and to ensure the corrections truly solved the problems.
In 1986, the Goldwater-Nichols Reorganization Act reversed the Inspector General portion of the 1950 Army Reorganization Act in that now TIG became responsible to the Secretary of the Army and responsive to the Chief of Staff, Army. TIG's other responsibilities remained the same.
Also during the 1980's, the Inspector General system became automated. Automation gave inspectors general tools to better assimilate all available Inspector General information, as well as audit reports written by outside agencies, including the Defense Audit Service and the General Accounting Office. The first effort was called the Inspector General Management Information Resource System (IGMIRS). IGMIRS was later replaced by the Inspector General Worldwide Network (IGNET).

This information was extracted and summarized from the following references:
The Inspectors General of the United States Army 1777 - 1903, David A. Clary and Joseph W. A. Whitehorne, US Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1987.
Historical Perspective, Inspectors General in Wartime, from the US Army Inspector General Agency War Plan, dtd 5 Jul 1989.
The Army Almanac, United States Government Printing Office, 1950.
OTIG Historical Summaries for various years from 1950 - 1989.
Inspectors General - Old and New: A Matter of Misunderstood Roles, LTC Robert L. Maginnis, unpublished manuscript.

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