NASA Chief Defends Embattled Inspector General

WASHINGTON-- NASA Administrator Mike Griffin defended the U.S. space agency's embattledinspector general Thursday, saying in an interview taped for C-SPAN's Newsmakersthat "management counseling" would be a sufficient response to what hedescribed as Robert Cobb's "overly harsh treatment of subordinates."

Three seniorDemocratic lawmakerscalled on President George Bush this week to fire Cobb after receiving a1,000-page report from the Integrity Committee of the President's Council onIntegrity and Efficiency that found Cobb had been verbally abusive to employeesand too chummy with Griffin's predecessor to be an effective internal watchdog.

Griffin, inhis first public comments about Cobb since Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and twosenior Democrats in the House called for Cobb's dismissal, said he saw nothingin the Integrity Committee's report that warranted Cobb's removal from office.

"The boardthat investigated did find that Inspector General Cobb was, shall we say,sometimes a bit rough on some of his employees and that's a managerial issuewhich we will address," Griffin said. "But the authority of his office has notbeen abused and his impartiality as an inspector general, at least to me, isnot in question."

Griffinalso said that he did not believe the president, who appointed Cobb, would firehim.

"[I]t wasmy recommendation that we stop well short of removing Inspector General Cobband I believe that the president has accepted that recommendation," Griffinsaid.

Nelson andthe two House members, Reps. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) and Brad Miller (D-N.C.),said Tuesday that they were not satisfied with the response from NASA or theWhite House and intended to move forward with hearings on Cobb's professionalconduct.

Griffin'sinterview is slated for broadcast Sunday.

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