The Inspector General Act was signed into law in 1978, establishing the first 12 presidentially appointed Inspectors General in federal agencies. There are now more than 70 statutory IGs, both presidentially appointed and appointed by agency heads. Collectively, they oversee the operations of nearly all aspects of federal government.

The Foreign Service Act of 1980 (Public Law 96-465) established a presidentially appointed Inspector General of the Department of State and the Foreign Service, conferring on  this Inspector General many of the duties and authorities found in the Inspector General Act of 1978, as well as some that are unique to this agency. For instance, Section 209 of the 1980 Act requires the Inspector General to audit and inspect each Foreign Service post and each bureau of the Department at least every 5 years. In doing this work, the Inspector General must examine several issues. Among these are an examination of “whether policy goals and objectives are being effectively achieved and whether the interests of the United States are being accurately and effectively represented.”

The current Department of State OIG was created in 1986, when Section 413(a) of the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986 (Public Law 99-399) directed the Secretary of State to immediately establish an OIG with an Inspector General who could exercise authorities set forth in both the Foreign Service Act of 1980 and the Inspector General Act of 1978.

In 1996, the Omnibus Consolidated Rescissions and Appropriations Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-134) merged the United States Information Agency OIG with the Department of State OIG. At that time, the Department of State OIG began providing oversight of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (now known as the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM)).

In 2013, Congress created the Lead Inspector General role in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (Public Law 112-239). Through that legislation, the Department of State OIG, along with the Department of Defense and USAID OIGs, became responsible for oversight of overseas contingency operations lasting more than 60 days.

OIG is currently responsible for the oversight of the U.S. Department of State, USAGM, and U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) programs and operations.