Obama has confidence in OPM chief despite hack

Obama has confidence in OPM chief despite hack
© Greg Nash

President Obama is standing by Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director Katherine Archuleta despite a series of massive data breaches that have shaken the federal government, the White House said Wednesday.

“The president does have confidence that she is the right person for the job,” spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

ADVERTISEMENT
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is leading a growing bipartisan chorus of lawmakers calling for Archuleta’s firing in the wake of the mega breach at her embattled agency, which has exposed the personal data of as many as 14 million government employees.

Earnest said updating OPM’s cyber defenses has been one of Archuleta’s top priorities since she assumed her post in late 2013, but that is “obviously an ongoing process.”

He said Archuleta and OPM Chief Information Officer Donna Seymour have cooperated as best as they can with a congressional inquiry into the hacks.

“They understandably faced some tough questions and they have tried to provide as much information as possible to the United States Congress,” he said. “This is an issue they have been working on for some time.”

Archuleta and Seymour have been under fire since it was revealed that suspected Chinese hackers had made off with troves of federal workers’ data.

Initially, they said the breach had affected 4.2 million current and former executive branch employees. But the scope and scale is expected to rise dramatically after officials last week acknowledged a second breach had been discovered that exposed military and intelligence security clearance information.

It’s now believed every federal employee, government contractors, and even friends and family members named in government personnel files were also compromised, putting up to 14 million people’s data at risk.

Archuleta and Seymour took a three-hour beating from lawmakers on Tuesday during a House Oversight Committee hearing.

They were berated for not encrypting employee data and ignoring inspector general warnings about security shortcomings. Archuleta said the OPM had been working to address these issues at the time of the hack, and that many of its systems were too old to accept encryption.

Members also chided the pair for obfuscating details about the hack.

“We need to be ... more forthcoming with our own employees,” said Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.). “All of them deserve a lot more protection than they’re getting right now.”

Chaffetz told reporters Tuesday that both officials’ performance at the hearing convinced him they have to go.

“They weren’t garnering much support and certainly weren’t exuding confidence,” Chaffetz said. “I think it’s time for them to resign, and if they don’t, I think the president should fire them,” he said.