(Senate - March 17, 2016)

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[Pages S1578-S1580]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. CARPER. Thank you, Mr. President. It is good to see the Presiding 
Officer on this St. Patrick's Day, and I am pleased to have a chance to 
rise and to urge my colleagues to confirm two very important nominees. 
Some of my colleagues have scattered across the country to go home for 
a 2-week recess, but the Presiding Officer is here. Hopefully, the 
words that I am saying here today will find their way to our colleagues 
wherever they are or wherever they are headed.
  One of the nominees is a woman named Beth Cobert, who has been 
nominated to be the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, and 
the other is Michael Missal, who has been nominated to be the inspector 
general of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  Like many of my colleagues, I have grown frustrated over the years 
as, too often, senior positions in the Federal Government have been 
left vacant or filled by someone serving in an acting capacity for far 
too long. A lack of critical leadership at agencies can--and oftentimes 
does--undermine the effectiveness of Federal programs. I know all of us 
want Federal agencies to work more efficiently to provide the most 
value to American taxpayers, and having strong leadership in place is 
key to that effort. I hope we can move to quickly confirm both of these 
nominees when the Senate returns after the recess.
  Let me start with a few words about Beth Cobert. I don't know if the 
Presiding Officer has had a chance to meet with her. She is one of the 
most impressive leaders of this administration or any administration 
whom I have had the privilege to know. She is an excellent nominee to 
head OPM. Right from the start, I have been very impressed with her 
work, with her leadership, with her work ethic, and with her ability to 
get people to work together at OMB and now during her time at OPM in 
this acting capacity. Before that, she was Deputy Director for 
Management within the Office of Management and Budget. I just think we 
are really lucky in this country that she is willing to continue to 
serve in this capacity as well as serving in her previous capacity. She 
comes out of the private sector, from McKinsey & Company, a brand new 
California operation. She did that and had a number of senior positions 
within that company and a great career.
  The Office of Personnel Management performs critical functions 
affecting the entire Federal workforce. What they do every day has a 
direct impact on the quality of work at all executive branch 
departments and agencies. As my colleagues know, Ms. Cobert's time at 
OPM began in the aftermath of one of the worst cyber attacks committed 
against our government last year. One result of that incident has been 
a major effort to overhaul the information technology infrastructure, 

[[Page S1579]]

requires great levels of management attention and expertise.
  Even before she came to OPM, Ms. Cobert was deeply involved in the 
OPM response to the breach from her Senate-confirmed role at OMB. If 
you look at her management and technology experience in the private 
sector, her experience at OMB, and the time she has already spent 
leading the Office of Personnel Management, she is the ideal candidate 
to lead OPM at such a critical time. I am only one of many who have 
been impressed by Ms. Cobert. In addition to receiving a unanimous vote 
from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on her 
nomination to lead OPM, she has the support of Chairman Jason Chaffetz 
at the House and of Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, who lead the House 
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Representatives Chaffetz 
and Cummings sent a letter to Majority Leader McConnell and Minority 
Leader Reid supporting Ms. Cobert's confirmation.
  Here is a taste of what they had to say about her: ``[Ms. Cobert] is 
a qualified and competent choice to lead OPM, which is in need of 
strong leadership, and we urge the Senate to approve her nomination 
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record 
the full letter.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

         House of Representatives, Committee on Oversight and 
           Government Reform,
                                    Washington, DC, March 3, 2016.
     Hon. Mitch McConnell,
     Majority Leader, U.S. Senate,
     Washington, DC.
     Hon. Harry Reid,
     Minority Leader, U.S. Senate,
     Washington, DC.
       Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Reid: We 
     write in support of President Obama's nomination of Beth 
     Cobert to serve as Director of the Office of Personnel 
     Management (OPM). She is a qualified and competent choice to 
     manage OPM, which is in need of strong leadership, and we 
     urge the Senate to approve her nomination swiftly.
       On February 1, 2016, the Inspector General of OPM, on his 
     departure from federal service, sent a letter to President 
     Obama praising Ms. Cobert's leadership:
       ``I am also comforted by the fact that Acting OPM Director 
     Beth Cobert appears to have wrapped her arms around the 
     multitude of challenges currently facing OPM. Further, she 
     seems to be arduously striving to institute high standards of 
     professionalism as she works to reinvigorate this great 
       We further expect that as Director, Ms. Cobert will 
     continue to assist the Committee's ongoing investigation of 
     the data breach that OPM announced in 2015, which resulted in 
     the loss of personally identifiable information for over 21.5 
     million individuals. On February 3, 2016, the Committee 
     issued a subpoena to Ms. Cobert--who has served as OPM's 
     Acting Director since July 10, 2015--for documents related to 
     the data breach investigation. The agency produced some 
     responsive documents by the February 16, 2016, deadline and 
     has agreed to produce outstanding documents on a rolling 
     basis; however, there are still outstanding documents that 
     have not been produced to the Committee. We expect the agency 
     to fully comply with the subpoena and produce all outstanding 
       Please contact Katie Bailey of the Chairman's staff or Tim 
     Lynch of the Ranking Member's staff with any questions. Thank 
     you for your attention to this matter.
                                                   Jason Chaffetz,
                                               Elijah E. Cummings,
                                                   Ranking Member.

  Mr. CARPER. Ms. Cobert is a highly qualified nominee. We are 
fortunate indeed that she is willing to serve in this capacity and take 
on the many challenges that are currently facing OPM.
  I urge my colleagues to quickly confirm her so she can continue to do 
the good work that she is doing at OPM.
  I have known people who are show horses and folks who are workhorses. 
This woman is a workhorse--I like to think people look at us as 
workhorses as well--but she is focused on getting the job done. She is 
especially good at surrounding herself with terrific people. She did 
that at OMB, she did that at OPM, and she did that before when she was 
in her very significant position at McKinsey & Company.
  Let me just turn the page and talk about Michael Missal. I want to 
talk about him and thank him for his willingness to step up and serve 
as the inspector general for the Department of Veterans Affairs. He 
served 5 years of Active Duty in a hot war as a naval flight officer in 
Southeast Asia and another 18 years as a P-3 aircraft mission commander 
in the Navy right up to the end of the Cold War.
  As Governor for 8 years in Delaware and commander in chief of the 
Delaware National Guard, we send people from Delaware. Right now we 
have people in Afghanistan. We have sent people over the years to any 
number of places where they are in harm's way.
  I care a lot about veterans. My dad was a veteran. A bunch of my 
uncles were veterans. One of them got killed in World War II, the 
victim of a kamikaze attack on his aircraft carrier in the western 
Pacific. So veterans' concerns run deep in my family.
  As we all know, our inspectors general play an extremely important 
role in our government. Their work helps us to save money while also 
revealing and prosecuting wrongdoing, promoting the integrity and 
efficiency of our government, and hopefully increasing the confidence 
and faith that the American people have in their government. I believe 
the work of inspectors general, along with that of GAO, is invaluable 
with respect to the work of the Homeland Security and Governmental 
Affairs Committee, in which I am privileged to serve, and the whole 
Senate as we look for ways to get better results for less money and 
further reduce our Federal deficit down from $1.4 trillion a half dozen 
years ago to about close to a quarter of that--which is still too much. 
We are making progress, but we need to make more. The IG is a big part 
of helping us to meet that goal. I think it is critical that we have 
qualified, experienced people in place to serve these important roles. 
This is tough work. We are blessed by the many IGs we have.
  We have seen far too many IG positions, including the one Mr. Missal 
has been nominated to fill, sit vacant or be filled by someone serving 
in an acting capacity for far too long. In fact, the VA, of all 
agencies, given the concern we have heard and seen across the country 
in recent years--the IG vacancy at the VA--has been without a 
permanent, Senate confirmed inspector general for more than 2 years. In 
the past several years, I have joined all the members of the Homeland 
Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in sending letters to the 
President, urging him to nominate people to fill all the IG vacancies, 
including one letter that specifically pointed out the importance of 
the one I am talking about today, the inspector general position at the 
  Our committee held a hearing last year on IG vacancies and pointed 
out the importance of having permanent IGs in place to ensure the 
independence of this office.
  I want to thank the President for responding to our committee's 
letters. He has done this by sending the Senate a number of well-
qualified nominees, including Mr. Missal, for our consideration. These 
words have been heard in the last couple of weeks. He is doing his job, 
and now it is time for us to do our job with respect to these 
  I was pleased that both the Veterans Affairs' Committee and our 
committee, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, 
were able to move quickly to consider Mr. Missal's nomination. I want 
to thank my colleagues on our committee for making it a priority.
  However, since early this year, there has been no action by the 
Senate on Mr. Missal's nomination. This is an inspector general vacancy 
in Veterans Affairs, where we know there have been hospitals and 
facilities across the country that are troubled, and we need the best 
leadership we can find at the VA in this position. Again, I think the 
President has given us a very good person. He is willing to do the job. 
We need to get him confirmed.
  As we know, the VA has been facing significant challenges over the 
last couple of years. I believe that confirming a permanent IG at the 
VA will help provide much needed oversight, while helping to point out 
and resolve some of the problems at the VA that are negatively 
impacting the lives of our veterans every day.
  Leaving this position vacant impedes much needed progress on 
identifying and addressing serious issues at the VA that impact our 
veterans. If we want to do more to fix the VA, we need a strong

[[Page S1580]]

and independent inspector general to be our partner in that effort. 
Delaying this nomination also delays improvements to the services that 
our veterans receive.
  Permanent leadership of the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of 
Inspector General is long overdue and will go a long way toward 
providing stable leadership and oversight of the agency. I urge my 
colleagues to quickly confirm Mr. Missal so he can go to work on behalf 
of our veterans and the American people--not in a couple of months or 
later this year; we can do it now, as soon as we come back from the 
recess that begins tomorrow.