NASA's Controversial Inspector General Resigns
NASA's controversial inspector general Robert Cobb has resigned following bipartisan calls for his resignation and criticism from fellow watchdogs, most notably a recent Government Accountability Office report that determined he had done little to identify waste or fraud at the space agency. His resignation is effective April 11.
Appointed by then-President George W. Bush in 2002, lawmakers, former colleagues and government watchdogs had expressed concerns in recent years that Cobb compromised the integrity and independence of NASA's inspector general office by blocking or killing internal investigations and sharing investigative results with then-NASA administrator Michael Griffin before completion. Cobb disputed such accusations, investigations and reports.
News of Cobb's resignation pleased lawmakers long concerned by his tenure.
Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee that oversees NASA said in a statement last night that “News of Robert Cobb’s resignation is certainly welcome and this is an important step forward," adding later that "The time has come to close the door on this troubling chapter for NASA and a fresh start awaits.”
"It’s about time he heard the loud cries from all around him to step down. Now we can get someone in there who can keep an eye on our money," Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said in a statement last night. Rockefeller, McCaskill and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to President Obama in mid-March requesting Cobb's immediate removal.
"If we are to strengthen our oversight system, we must set the tone at the top and hold inspectors general accountable for improper conduct and just plain not doing their jobs," the letter stated.
House lawmakers expressed similar concerns: "Mr. Cobb was not up to the job," House Science Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) told the AP. "But the end result can't just be the removal of an ineffectual IG. We need to put in place a strong IG. NASA is too important an agency, with too important a mission, to risk letting waste and abuse run rampant due to lax oversight."
In his resignation letter, Cobb said “A new inspector general will find an organization with extraordinarily talented employees dedicated to rooting out fraud, waste and abuse, and promoting the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of NASA.” He had previously handled ethics issues for the Bush White House, serving as as an associate counsel to the president.
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