Interview by Agent Tamara Marks of the Office of the Inspector General

Updated July 10, 2022

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Interview by Agent Tamara Marks of the Office of the Inspector General essay

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The United States Department of Defense Office of Inspector General carries the burden of advising and holding accountable one of our most powerful government agencies. Here, special agents investigate claims of waste, abuse, and corruption within Department of Defense programs and elsewhere. These crimes often involve the illicit transfer of large funds, resources, digital information, and other forms of fraud. This job not only protects those who benefit from government programming and resources, but protects the taxpayer’s money from being wasted through dishonesty. The Office of Inspector General was established under the Department of Defense in 1982, following the mission of the Inspector General Act of 1978. While the OIG serves within the Department of Defense, it is intended to be objective and to act independently.

Most government agencies are “boys clubs”. Until recently, very few women were hired or promoted within these agencies despite having the same or better education and skills. To offer a closer look into the welfare of female employees of the Department of Defense, I have interviewed Special Agent Tamara Marks of the Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Services. Marks has moved between several different government agencies during her 30-year career in criminal justice. She began with a degree in criminology from the University of South Florida, and was interviewed for employment very shortly after graduating. From 1989 up to the present day, Marks has been employed by several different Offices of Inspector General, from the Department of Education, to the Department of Treasury, to the Department of Veterans Affairs, until finally landing in the Department of Defense.

Here, she works under the Office of Inspector General in Defense Criminal Investigative Services. Her responsibilities include investigating instances of waste, fraud, and corruption. Many of her fraud cases involve agencies who claim to provide services for military families, but never fulfill their duties and thus only collect reimbursements. Marks protects taxpayers in the sense that she makes sure their money is used for its intended purpose, and protects those who need resources, such as occupational therapy or counseling, so they actually receive those services. When necessary, Marks executes search warrants, investigations, arrests, and testifies in court as needed to bring criminals to justice.

Overall, her job is incredibly important; while we want to believe that our own Department of Defense and other government organizations do not waste our resources, it is not an uncommon occurrence. Without agents like Tamara Marks, criminals would get away with stealing from the public and leaving vulnerable people without vital resources. Expanding further, Marks covered some specific examples of cases she routinely encounters in her current position, “…I work a lot of healthcare fraud cases involving TRICARE funds. …TRICARE pays a LOT of money to take care of those family members while [military members] serve our country. Unfortunately, there are a lot of health care providers who take advantage of the high reimbursement rate…for services that I find were actually never provided…So, I investigate these providers and put them in jail for the fraud they are perpetrating.” This is a very basic example of a typical case Marks would have to investigate.

After gaining an understanding of her responsibilities, I inquired more deeply into the experiences Marks has had as a woman in her field. While employed with the Department of Veterans Affairs OIG, Marks was the only female agent in the St. Petersburg, FL location for 18 years. In her initial response, Marks had mentioned being denied promotion, to which I inquired further. Although she was by far the most productive Special Agent in the office, her supervisors completely overlooked her as a candidate for a higher position. Eventually, her decision to leave the Department of Veterans Affairs was largely impacted by the fact that a male coworker, who Marks had trained herself, was promoted to higher supervising position despite having 10 fewer years in experience as an agent. Many others in this particular office left after Marks as well; they had hoped to work under her, not a rookie with comparatively very little experience or social skills. Like most other cases, the refusal to recognize a woman’s potential comes at a severe cost. It is concerning that our government agencies would prefer to put an underqualified man in charge instead of a perfectly qualified and experienced woman.

Women are typically socialized to be demure, empathetic, and to communicate more verbally. Feminine skills are often criticised as inferior; logic is almost always valued over emotion, and empathy is often diagnosed as weakness. It is a double-bind; however, imitating men and shirking off the ability to multi-task or to be empathetic is not a solution; in fact, these are vital skills in the type of work Special Agents are a part of. In the second part of the interview, I inquired about the value of “typically feminine” traits in Marks’ workplace. When I asked if those skills hindered her, she responded that they were actually quite useful: “I was able to talk to people openly, honestly, and I related to them more so than any of my male counterparts.”

This aided her in garnering confessions, and many of her male counterparts would specifically request her help in relating to victims or perpetrators. Continuing, she stated “I think 20/30 years ago, communication skills were not considered very important. However, things have changed.” Now, she feels that these skills are very much valued, and women are seen as much more capable of taking on higher power positions. Currently, many of Marks’ immediate supervisors are female, and she feels that she would have no problem securing a promotion if she were looking for one. Furthermore, the office where she is currently employed has a much more even representation of both men and women. Their productivity or group cohesion does not suffer at all from this; in fact, the multitude of skills and personality types brought to the table makes for a more dynamic and effective team.

Interview by Agent Tamara Marks of the Office of the Inspector General essay

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Interview by Agent Tamara Marks of the Office of the Inspector General. (2022, Jul 10). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/interview-by-agent-tamara-marks-of-the-office-of-the-inspector-general/

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