March 17, 2016 - Issue: Vol. 162, No. 43 — Daily Edition114th Congress (2015 - 2016) - 2nd Session
NOMINATIONS OF BETH COBERT AND MICHAEL MISSAL; Congressional Record Vol. 162, No. 43
(Senate - March 17, 2016)
Text available as:
Formatting necessary for an accurate reading of this text may be shown by tags (e.g., <DELETED> or <BOLD>) or may be missing from this TXT display. For complete and accurate display of this text, see the PDF.
[Pages S1578-S1580] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] NOMINATIONS OF BETH COBERT AND MICHAEL MISSAL 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, which [[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 swiftly.'' 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 agency.'' 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 documents. 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. Sincerely, Jason Chaffetz, Chairman. 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 VA. 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 nominations. 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. ____________________