Pentagon watchdog resigns after being blocked from stimulus role

Tony Capaccio

The Pentagon watchdog who was originally cast to chair the independent committee overseeing more than $2 trillion in virus stimulus spending resigned a month after being blocked from that role by President Donald Trump.

Glenn Fine, the principal deputy inspector general at the Pentagon, said in a statement issued Tuesday that the “time had come” for him to step down, while praising the responsibility federal watchdogs have to pursue investigations independent of political pressures.

“They are a vital component of our system of checks and balances and I am grateful to have been part of that system,” Fine said in a statement sent by Dwrena Allen, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon Inspector General’s office.

Glenn Fine, Acting Inspector General, U.S. Department Of Defense, testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington in this Dec. 6, 2017, file photo.

Fine – who had served in the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations – had originally been tapped by his peers to lead the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, but the appointment came as Trump was increasingly taking action against inspectors general he sees as insufficiently loyal.

In an unexpected move in early April, Trump ousted Fine from his job as acting Defense Department inspector general, effectively removing him from being able to serve on the committee. Afterward, Trump said he didn’t know Fine and didn’t think he had ever met him.

Fine was praised by Jim Mattis, Trump’s first defense secretary, as a “public servant in the finest tradition of honest, competent governance,” Yahoo News reported at the time.

Since then, Fine had returned to the Pentagon to his prior role as principal deputy.

In his period as acting inspector general at the Defense Department, Fine improved the transparency of his office, reducing a reliance on a “For Official Use Only” label on documents that’s frequently used in the Pentagon to limit distribution of sensitive or embarrassing information.

He also was credited with improving morale in his department as he pursued a wide range of probes from cost overruns on key weapons systems to the the U.S. military struggles in Syria and Iraq.

The former Harvard University basketball point guard was drafted in the 10th round by the San Antonio Spurs in 1979 but accepted a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University instead.