President Obama on Wednesday nominated John F. Sopko, a partner at the Washington law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, to become Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
Sopko has more than 30 years experience in investigative and oversight work. He joined Akin Gump in January 2009 as an investigator after two years as chief counsel for oversight and investigations for the House Energy and Commerce committee. At the firm, he focuses on congressional and federal investigations.
From 2005 to 2007 he was deputy director of the Homeland Security Studies & Analysis Institute.
After receiving a law degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Sopko became a prosecutor in Dayton, Ohio, where he battled organized crime. That work led him to the Justice Department’s Organized Crime and Racketeering Section, where he started in 1978. From 1982 to 1997, Sopko was deputy chief counsel at the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. After transferring to the Commerce Department he became minority general counsel and chief of investigations for the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, a position he held before his work at the Homeland Security institute.
The special inspector general investigates corruption allegations in the multibillion-dollar Afghanistan reconstruction effort.
The previous inspector, Arnold Fields, a retired Marine major general, resigned in January 2011 after a review by the Council of Inspectors General found that many of his office’s audits barely met minimum quality standards and that Fields had not laid out a clear strategic vision.
The position has been vacant for more than 470 days, according to an inspectors general vacancy tracker maintained by the nonpartisan, nonprofit Project on Government Oversight.
Steven Trent has been acting special inspector general since September 2011.
There are currently 10 inspector general vacancies across the government, which has drawn criticism from Congress.
Obama also appointed Jonathan Lippman, currently chief judge of the State of New York and chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals to the board of directors of the State Justice Institute, which awards grants to state courts.
“The extraordinary dedication these individuals bring to their new roles will greatly serve the American people,” Obama said in a statement. “I am grateful they have agreed to serve in this Administration and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come.”
Sopko did not immediately return phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.