Politics

OPM Defends Cyber Chief Against Chaffetz Demand For Removal

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Ethan Barton Managing Editor

A House committee chairman repeated his demand for the removal of the Office of Personnel Management’s cybersecurity chief Thursday, but agency officials argued that’s not needed because they’re “working incredibly hard.”

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz reiterated his call to terminate OPM Chief Information Officer Donna Seymour for failing to prevent a digital breach that exposed more than 22 million current, retired and former federal employees’ private information and for hindering the inspector general’s work.

The OPM breach first became public June 5, but subsequent revelations made clear the system had been repeatedly compromised for many months before it was discovered.

“Ms. Seymour has already failed the American people with her inability to secure OPM’s networks, and to learn that her office may be actively interfering with the work of the inspector general only adds insult to injury,” the Utah Republican wrote in a letter to OPM Acting Director Beth Cobert.

Seymour “is unfit to perform the significant duties for which she is responsible,” Chaffetz said.

OPM’s Samuel Schumach circulated a statement in response to Chaffetz, saying the agency, including Seymour’s office, “has been working incredibly hard to enhance the security of our information technology systems and support those who have been affected by the recent cybersecurity incidents.”

Schumach continued, saying “as indicated in previous statements, since Ms. Seymour’s arrival at OPM in late 2013, OPM has undertaken an aggressive effort to upgrade the agency’s cybersecurity posture, adding numerous tools and capabilities to its various legacy networks. These efforts were critical in helping OPM to identify the recent cybersecurity incidents.”

The Daily Caller News Foundation previously reported that OPM repeatedly ignored Inspector General Patrick McFarland’s recommendations to strengthen its cybersecurity, that the agency relied on antiquated digital software, and an earlier, similar government breach should have acted as a warning sign.

McFarland told Congress earlier this year that Seymour’s office wasn’t cooperating with investigations.

“Specifically, there have been situations where actions by the OCIO have interfered with, and thus, hindered the OIG’s work,” McFarland wrote to Chaffetz on Aug. 3. “Further, the OCIO has repeatedly provided the OIG with inaccurate or misleading information, some of which was repeated under oath.”

Seymour’s office previously “had a positive relationship” with the watchdog, but “this is no longer the case, and indeed, recent events make [Seymour] question whether [Seymour] is acting in good faith,” McFarland told OPM Acting Director Beth Corbet on July 22.

Chaffetz and 17 other lawmakers called on President Obama to fire Seymour in a June 26 letter. The letter also called for then-OPM Director Katherine Archuleta’s termination, who resigned on July 10.

Neither OPM nor the White House responded to requests for comment.

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