NASA Inspector General Resigns

WASHINGTON (AP) - NASA's beleaguered inspector general, Robert
"Moose" Cobb, resigned Thursday.

Three U.S. senators - two Democrats and a Republican - urged
Obama two weeks ago to oust Cobb, saying the inspector general
"has been repeatedly accused of stifling investigations,
retaliating against whistleblowers and prioritizing social
relationships with top NASA officials over proper federal
oversight."

In February, House Science Committee Chairman Bart Gordon,
D-Tenn., urged Obama to get rid of Cobb as the watchdog over the
$17 billion in NASA spending, saying: "NASA cannot afford another
four years with an ineffective inspector general."

A federal audit this year found Cobb saved taxpayers only 36
cents for every dollar he spent on investigations. The average for
other inspectors general was $9.49. The Government Accountability
Office, Congress' investigative and auditing arm, found that Cobb's
office "has generally not focused on audits with recommendations
for improving the economy and efficiency of NASA's programs ...
with potential monetary savings."

Two years ago, the President's Council on Integrity and
Efficiency issued a report saying Cobb abused his authority and
didn't appear independent enough from the agency he was
investigating. One case involved whether to make public the theft
of a ring from the remains of the space shuttle Columbia.
Congressional leaders, who said Cobb was too subservient to the
NASA administrator, had called for his resignation then, too, but
it went unheeded.

In his brief resignation letter, Cobb did not say why he was
resigning, effective Apr. 11. He 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."

Gordon, the Science Committee chairman, called Cobb's
resignation "a first good step."

"Mr. Cobb was not up to the job," the congressman said. "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."

Rep. Brad Miller, D-N.C., chairman of the Science Committee's
investigations and oversight panel, said, "This is an opportunity
for President Obama to return NASA to its original mission, to make
it the 'right stuff' agency again."

"A scientific agency should not be political in the way NASA
became in the last eight years," he said.

Cobb was appointed to the job in 2002 by President George W.
Bush. Before that, he was an associate counsel to the president in
the Bush White House, handling ethics issues. NASA referred
questions to the White House.
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On the Net:
NASA Inspector General: http://oig.nasa.gov/Welcome.html


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