Homeland Security chairman has 'harsh evaluation' of OPM director

Homeland Security chairman has 'harsh evaluation' of OPM director

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonWhistleblower retaliation: Stop confusing unlawful attacks with politics Congress looks to strengthen hand in State Department following impeachment Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony MORE (R-Wis.) has a "harsh evaluation so far" for embattled Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director Katherine Archuleta.

But Johnson said he will withhold judgment on whether Archuleta should be dismissed over the massive hack at her agency until he can hear from her directly.

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“I want to be able to ask questions,” he told reporters Thursday. “I haven’t gotten a good briefing on it yet. So I’ll reserve my judgment, but obviously we need people in place in these positions that, first of all, take the threat of cybersecurity seriously, and I don’t think the [director] did.”

Johnson’s committee announced Thursday that it will hold the upper chamber’s first hearing next week on the data breach that has affected up to 14 million people.

"This breach is deeply troubling," said Homeland Security panel ranking member Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperConsensus forming for ambitious climate goal: Net zero pollution Overnight Energy: Controversial Trump adviser reportedly returning to EPA | Delta aims to be first carbon neutral airline | Dem senator gives EPA D-minus on 'forever chemicals' Democratic senator gives EPA a D-minus on implementing PFAS action plan MORE (D-Del.) in a statement. "The administration must respond with a sense of urgency." 

The tide in Congress has turned against Archuleta since a poorly received performance during a Tuesday House hearing, the first time she had testified since the breach was revealed.

Lawmakers have been piling on Archuleta for failing to heed her inspector general’s November warning that 11 of its 47 systems were insecure and should have been shut down.

The agency has pushed back, arguing it had to keep the systems running in order to guarantee employees their benefits and paychecks. Archuleta also maintained the agency has a long-term plan in place to address the security shortcomings.

But many House members were not satisfied by that answer, nor by a classified briefing that followed the hearing.

“Quite frankly, I didn’t hear much classified in the classified briefing,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzThe myth of the conservative bestseller Elijah Cummings, Democratic chairman and powerful Trump critic, dies at 68 House Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records MORE (R-Utah) told reporters as he exited the meeting. “There wasn’t a whole lot of information there.”

Chaffetz has led the call from the House side for Archuleta to step down.

But senators have said they don’t have enough specifics yet to make a decision.

“They’re just not giving us much information,” Johnson said.

“I’m going to withhold judgment, but you can see I’ve got somewhat of a harsh evaluation so far of what I’ve seen, not only with the director of OPM, but across the federal government,” he added.

The Homeland Security panel head wants a classified briefing from administration officials before the June 25 hearing, which could help determine Archuleta’s fate.

“I’d like to get it beforehand, but obviously, I’m going to be really digging into this heavily prior to the hearing, and we’ll be asking some good questions,” Johnson said. “We’ll see if she has any answers for them whatsoever.”