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NASA's Embattled Inspector General Resigns

NASA's embattled Inspector General Robert "Moose" Cobb has resigned from his post as the space agency's internal watchdog after years of criticism from lawmakers.

Cobb's resignation, announced by NASA late Thursday, will go into effect on April 11 and comes amid a renewed call for his removal after the release of Government Accountability Office (GAO) earlier this year criticizing his track record.

The Jan. 9 GAO report evaluated 28 inspectors general on their cost-saving abilities through audits and investigations, rating NASA's Office of Inspector General second to last in 2007.

Among other criticisms, the GAO report found that NASA audits and investigations yielded a 36-cent return for every dollar spent, while the average for all federal inspectors general was $9.49.

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After the January report, lawmakers urged President Barack Obama to remove Cobb from his post.

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

Cobb has served as NASA's Inspector General since his appointment by President George W. Bush in 2002. Prior to that, he served with the Office of Government Ethics and on the White House staff.

He first came under fire in 2007, when he refused to resign amid calls by congressional Democrats who criticized his close association with top managers at the same time he was supposed to be impartially monitoring them.

While a yearlong investigation by the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, it did cite reports that Cobb verbally abusing employees and failing to maintain an appearance of independence from top NASA officials, including the agency's former chief Sean O'Keefe, on at least two occasions.

One instance involved a hacker's theft of rocket engine schematics from computers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in 2002. The council found that Cobb did not report the data theft fast enough.

The other instance involved Cobb's interference to stop Texas law enforcement officials from issuing a bulletin on an unverified report that a ring had been stolen from the remains of astronaut killed during the 2003 Columbia shuttle tragedy.

Cobb disagreed with that investigation's findings and had refused to resign. On Thursday, he submitted a brief letter to NASA and President Obama that did not detail reasons for his resignation, but did express his hopes for the space agency.

"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," he wrote.

"At NASA, the seemingly impossible is turned into marvels of human achievement," Cobb wrote. "Challenges facing NASA are many, but I am confident that they will be ably met by your Administration, working with NASA's gifted scientists, engineers, institutional leaders, and contractor workforce."

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