May 5, 2023

Allegation Regarding the Secretary of Energy’s Protective Detail

The Office of Special Operations (OSO), part of the Office of Environment, Health, Safety and Security, is authorized to provide protective measures for the Secretary of Energy (Secretary) through its executive protection mission.  On September 29, 2021, the Office of Inspector General Hotline received an allegation that members of the Secretary’s protective detail, OSO agents, misused their positions.  Specifically, the complainant alleged that protective detail agents upgraded airline flights to first and business class while the Secretary sat in economy class, used tobacco products in Government-owned vehicles (GOVs), and operated GOVs for personal use.  We initiated this inspection to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding the allegation concerning the misuse of position within the Secretary’s protective detail.

We did not substantiate the allegation that members of the Secretary’s protective detail misused their positions.  While we substantiated that members of the Secretary’s detail did not follow procedures pertaining to two of the three examples in the allegation, we do not believe that it was a misuse of their position.  Specifically, we found that OSO protective detail agents upgraded airline seats to first or business class while the Secretary, the principal whom they were protecting, sat in economy class on 2 of 10 trips reviewed.  We also found that protective detail agents used tobacco products in GOVs.  However, we did not substantiate the allegation regarding the agents’ personal use of GOVs. 

We also identified a potential ethics violation.  Specifically, it appeared that the OSO Director accepted a ticket or tickets to an athletic event from a private industry official.  Although the Director stated that he did not use the tickets, it appeared to us, and likely to the official, that the Director did accept the gift, thereby creating the appearance of violating 5 Code of Federal Regulations 2635.202, General prohibition on solicitation or acceptance of gifts.

The issues we identified occurred, in part, because the Secretary’s travel practices made it difficult to ensure that an agent was in the same class as the Secretary, and agents did not take supervisory direction seriously.  This report contains three recommendations that, if fully implemented, should help ensure that the issues identified are corrected.  Management agreed with our findings and recommendations, and its corrective actions, taken and planned, are consistent with our recommendations.