WASHINGTON – U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today sent a letter to Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Perry requesting documents and information regarding the Department’s funding, during the previous administration, of a former DOE Office of Fossil Energy (FE) employee’s law degree. The degree was unrelated to his professional position. According to a DOE Office of Inspector General (OIG) report, Obama administration FE officials overrode DOE policies to provide the former employee a taxpayer-funded education worth $138,000. Smith’s letter requests documents and communications related to the former employee’s job, his training and expenses, and  FE’s annual training reports.

“According to the OIG report, during the prior administration FE officials approved and paid $138,000 for a general engineer to obtain a law degree and other courses unrelated to his position. The Committee is concerned this could be an indication of a more widespread occurrence of inappropriate training authorizations and expenditures within DOE,” the letter states. “DOE regulations in place at the time . . . specified that for funds spent on training or academic courses to be considered allowable expenditures, the training or courses must be mission-oriented and related to the employee’s official duties and workplace responsibilities.”

DOE regulations also require employees participating in training that exceeds 180 hours to sign a Continued Service Agreement (CSA). Not only did the former employee’s training amount to approximately 1,000 hours, but the OIG report indicates that the employee was permitted to leave his DOE position without a CSA shortly after completing his degree. The committee, which has jurisdiction over energy and environmental research, has an obligation to ensure that taxpayer funds are appropriately allocated at DOE. The documents and information requested today will assist the committee in determining why this former employee received preferential treatment during his tenure at DOE and whether other employees similarly benefited.

The letter can be found here.