Mr. Cobb, you took on a very hard job when you agreed to sign up to be an Inspector General. IGs are probably held to the highest standard of behavior of any office in the government.
The expectations of integrity are so high because the job we have set for IGs is so challenging. The purpose of IGs as stated in the 1978 Inspector General Act is to act as effective watchdogs on agencies from the inside by creating independent and objective offices. Those offices are charged with providing leadership and recommending policies to promote economy, efficiency and effective administration of government and preventing and detecting fraud, waste and abuse. It was expected that they would leave no stone unturned in searching for improper behavior.
It is impossible to do that job if there is even a hint of misconduct on the part of the IG - and a lack of independence is a sure sign of a lack of integrity and objectiveness. If you view yourself as part of the agency's management team, you can't be an effective check on the management team. And it is clear that, from the very beginning, Mr. Cobb saw himself as part of Sean O'Keefe's team.
Senator Grassley was to testify here today and I would like to quote at some length from his testimony.
Senator Grassley noted that, "I am alarmed by the evidence uncovered by the PCIE investigation. In fact, it appears that Mr. Cobb did not act in a manner consistent with the spirit and intent of that statute. According to the evidence, he has used this important position to interfere in the activities conducted by the investigative and audit divisions within his office for reasons that appear, at the very least, improper. In fact, Mr. Cobb repeatedly told employees that one of his priorities was to avoid embarrassing NASA. Evidence also indicates that he shied away from bringing investigations against high-ranking NASA officials."
Senator Grassley continues, "It is clear to me that our ability to trust Mr. Cobb to effectively manage the Office of Inspector General and the vital functions that it seeks to carry out is in question. It seems that Mr. Cobb may care more about protecting NASA from embarrassment than he does about performing the critical functions of his office. An Inspector General must possess temperance, high ethical standards, and a firm understanding of the independent nature of that office. From the evidence presented, Mr. Cobb does not appear to possess these attributes."
I agree with Senator Grassley. An IG has to conduct him or herself in a fashion such that the Congress trusts them, the IG's staff believes in them, the whistleblowing community relies on them and agency managers fear them enough to respect them. The current NASA IG has failed on every count.
I want to encourage you to do better in leaving your office than you have done in leading it. Perhaps in that final act, you can demonstrate an acknowledgement that there are standards of conduct that you flaunted, but that you now have begun to understand.
The Committee - and NASA - needs an IG that it can work with. You are not that person, Mr. Cobb. You were chosen as inspector general not for your management skills or your experience in auditing, investigations, financial analysis, public administration or any of the other skills that IGs, by statute, are supposed to possess. You were chosen to play ball with Sean O'Keefe. Because of that and your own personal actions, you have been a highly unsuccessful inspector general. I hope you will ponder this and choose to do the right thing.