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NASA: Beggs leaves, Graham takes over.

James M. Beggs, administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for the last three years, began a leave of absence last week. The action came shortly after Beggs was charged with conspiring to defraud the Army on a weapons contract when he was an executive vice-president at General Dynamics Corp., before coming to NASA.

NASA's deputy administrator, William R. Graham, was named acting administrator until the charges against Beggs are resolved. Beggs's departure, though voluntary, came after several members of Congress called for him to resign. In a prepared statement, Beggs said, "For the record, I do not intend to leave the agency. This is not an interim step to a resignation." In a subsequent speech to NASA employees, Beggs was even more forceful. He reportedly labeled the charges against him as "outrageous" and "ridiculous" and part of an "adversarial relationship" created by the federal government against contractors.

Beggs was one of three officers of the St. Louis-based company indicted by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles. They were accused of illegally billing the Army for several millions of dollars in cost overruns on a prototype of the Sergeant York anti-aircraft gun. Ultimately, after about a $2 billion investment of federal funds with a number of companies, the project was canceled because the gun didn't work.

Beggs, as well as General Dynamics, has denied the charges. "There is nothing that I did in the case involved that I would not do again if I had to do it over again," said Beggs, 59. "We acted in an entirely ethical, legal and moral sense... I feel confident that ... I'll be completely exonerated of the charges."

Graham, 48, had been on the NASA payroll just over a week before he was thrust into the interim role. Prior to joining the agency he was senior associate of R&D Associates in Marina Del Rey, Calif., and had served for three years as chair of President Reagan's General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament. Reagan, who defended Beggs after the charges were made public, said he was "reluctantly" granting the leave.
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Title Annotation:James M. Beggs, William R. Graham
Publication:Science News
Date:Dec 14, 1985
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