Congressman To Root Out NASA Complaints Himself

by












  Space News Business

Congressman To Root Out NASA Complaints Himself

By AMY DOOLITTLE

posted: 07 September 2007
01:33 pm ET





Washington



A congressman with a key role in NASA oversight says he is investigating some whistleblowers’ complaints himself because he does not trust NASA Inspector General (IG) Robert Cobb with the job.





Rep. Brad Miller




(D-N.C.), chairman of the House Science and Technology subcommittee on investigations and oversight, said rather than give tips on possible violations at the agency to the inspector general, he has instructed his investigators




to tackle complaints




on their own




.

Miller, as well as Sen. Bill Nelson, (D-Fla.), chairman of the Senate S




cience C




ommittee, and Sen. Claire McCaskill




(D-Mo.), a former Missouri s




tate a




uditor, called for Cobb’s resignation in early June and asked U.S. President George W.




Bush to fire him. Cobb has said he will not resign.

The President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency (PCIE),




an association of federal inspectors general,




in a January letter to Clay Johnson, deputy




director of




management of the Office of Management and Budget,




said




Cobb retaliated against employees who questioned whether he had an inappropriately friendly relationship with




former NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe.

PCIE’s
Integrity Committee









determined IG Cobb engaged in an abuse of authority




,” the letter said. “The




[Integrity Committee] viewed this as more than an aggressive management style or a way of expressing dissatisfaction with employee performance but as arbitrary or capricious conduct, which affected the rights of senior employees to a nonhostile and abusive




workplace.”

Miller said Cobb cannot




fairly filter and investigate complaints within the agency




because




of his management technique and known close association with NASA officials.

“We’ve made it very clear,” Miller said late last month




. “We’re not going to ask Inspector General Cobb to conduct oversight.”

Cobb, a presidential appointee, will leave office in January 2009




. Until then, Miller said, his office plans to function without Cobb’s input.

“It’s pretty clear that for the next year and a half




there will, in effect, be no IG at NASA,” Miller




said.

Officials with Miller’s office said since Cobb refused to resign they have started two




investigations that under normal circumstances would be given to the inspector general.



The subcommittee has five full-




time investigators




. Typically, subcommittee investigations are conducted with the assistance of the agency inspector general or Government Accountability Office. Tips




not specifically related to subcommittee investigations




are typically handed over




to the IG or




g




eneral c




ounsel of the agency in question




.





Cobb declined to comment on Miller’s actions




, but said his office of 80 investigators and 100 auditors




currently is involved in 275 cases and 28 audits




.



At a rare joint




hearing of the House Science and Technology Committee and the Senate Commerce C




ommittee








June 7,




three of Cobb’s former employees said he blocked investigations and created a contentious work environment through an excessive use of profanity and name-




calling.

Cobb said employees are reacting to his oversight of their work.

“The road to producing disciplined work at the high standard I demand has resulted in some discord,” Cobb said in




written testimony




. “Some employees have not appreciated having their work tested inside the office to make sure it is founded in fact and law rather than personal opinion.”