Vitter places hold on Obama Department of Energy nominee

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter will put a hold President Barack Obama’s nominee to be undersecretary at the Department of Energy, Elizabeth Robinson, citing concerns over her handling of funds as NASA’s Chief Financial Officer, the delay of a NASA project that would give contracts to a Louisiana facility, and her potential use of personal emails to conduct government business.

“I am concerned with some of your actions, or lack of actions, in performing your current duties at NASA,” Vitter wrote, in a letter sent Tuesday to Robinson. “Delays and mismanagement of funds while you have been CFO will have a severe impact on thousands of jobs across the country. NASA’s Inspector General recently reported that the agency has struggled to achieve austerity during your tenure and that cost overruns have grown from $50 million in 2009 to $315 million last year.”

In particular, Vitter expressed concerns over the delay of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Space Launch System Contract, which would give a contract to Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana, providing jobs to the state.

“Approval of the delayed contracts means could mean putting between 300 and 600 more Louisianans back to work,” Vitter wrote.

Vitter suggested that NASA and Robinson were slow-walking the projects, not providing the appropriate funds to get them off the ground, and inappropriately applying sequestration cuts to those projects.

“While you have publicly stated your support for SLS, NASA’s budget request for the program, the delayed SLS contract definitization, and a myriad of other obstacles reflect a different indication of where the program may be heading,” he wrote.

Vitter also expressed concerns that Robinson might have used personal email for official correspondence, something for which officials from the Environmental Protection Agency have been criticized. Using personal email prevents that correspondence from showing up in a congressional investigation. Vitter said he had heard from “employees at NASA” that “some of its senior leadership have also carried multiple communications devices and used personal emails to conduct government business,” and he asked Robinson to address that issue.

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