NASA’s Embattled Inspector General Resigns

NASA?s embattledInspector General Robert ?Moose? Cobb has resigned from his post as the spaceagency?s internal watchdog after years of criticism from lawmakers.

Cobb?sresignation, announced by NASA late Thursday, will go into effect on April 11and comes amid arenewed call for his removal after the release of GovernmentAccountability Office (GAO) earlier this year criticizing his track record.

TheJan. 9 GAO report evaluated 28 inspectors general on their cost-savingabilities through audits and investigations, rating NASA?s Office of InspectorGeneral second to last in 2007. Among other criticisms, the GAO report foundthat NASA audits and investigations yielded a 36-cent return for every dollarspent, while the average for all federal inspectors general was $9.49.

Afterthe January report, lawmakers urged PresidentBarack Obama to remove Cobb from his post.

"Iam hopeful that one of the first actions at NASA taken by the Obama administration is to remove Mr. Cobb," Rep. BradMiller (D-N.C.) said in a Jan. 9 written statement. "The NASA [InspectorGeneral's] office has been in shambles since he arrived, and it needs to berebuilt."

Cobbhas served as NASA?s Inspector General since his appointment by PresidentGeorge W. Bush in 2002. Prior to that, he served with the Office of GovernmentEthics and on the White House staff.

Hefirst cameunder fire in 2007, when he refused to resign amid calls by congressionalDemocrats who criticized his close association with top managers at the sametime he was supposed to be impartially monitoring them. While a yearlonginvestigation by the President?s Council on Integrity and Efficiency found noevidence of criminal wrongdoing, it did cite reports that Cobb verbally abusingemployees and failing to maintain an appearance of independence from top NASAofficials, including the agency?s former chief Sean O?Keefe, on at least twooccasions.

Oneinstance involved a hacker?s theft of rocket engine schematics from computersat NASA?s Marshall Space Flight Center in 2002. The council found that Cobb didnot report the data theft fast enough. The other instance involved Cobb?sinterference to stop Texas law enforcement officials from issuing a bulletin onan unverified report that a ring had been stolen from the remains of astronautkilled during the 2003 Columbia shuttle tragedy.

Cobbdisagreed with that investigation?s findings and had refused toresign. On Thursday, he submitted a brief letter to NASA and President Obama that did notdetail reasons for his resignation, but did express his hopes for the spaceagency.

?A new Inspector General will find an organization with extraordinarilytalented employees dedicated to rooting out fraud, waste, and abuse andpromoting the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of NASA,? he wrote.

?At NASA, the seemingly impossible is turned into marvels ofhuman achievement,? Cobb wrote. ?Challenges facing NASA are many, but I amconfident that they will be ably met by your Administration, working withNASA's gifted scientists, engineers, institutional leaders, and contractorworkforce."

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