A couple of developments last week certainly were not helpful to the image of NASA and administrator Mike Griffin. On Friday the Washington Post reported that Congressman Brad Miller claimed that NASA destroyed evidence when it reportedly destroyed a videotape of a meeting between Griffin and embattled inspector general Robert Cobb. This development came a day after a front-page story in the Post reported that officials with NASA and many other federal agencies attended “political briefings” with White House officials prior to the midterm election. One person went so far as to forward me an email from a mailing list with the subject line “Mike Griffin in trouble?”
The answer is probably not, at least not over this. As both the Post story and one Saturday in Florida Today reported, the meeting was not a one-on-one affair between Griffin and Cobb but one that involved “something approaching” 200 people that was not planned to be taped in the first place to allow a freer flow of discussion, so the general counsel advised that the tape be destroyed. As for the political briefings, the results of the November election proved just how useful they were to the White House.
The IG issue, though, won’t be going away any time soon: a hearing on the investigation into Cobb and his work is planned for next week. The danger is that it will be a distraction to members of Congress who should focus instead on appropriate levels of funding for the space agency, both overall and among its various programs, and the state of its work carrying out the Vision for Space Exploration.