Government's top IT official backs OPM chief

Government's top IT official backs OPM chief
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The government's top information technology official is strongly defending the security efforts of leadership at the agency hit by perhaps the largest government hack ever.

Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta has been fending off calls for her resignation in the wake of multiple data breaches at her agency that exposed tens of millions of people’s data.

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But Tony Scott, the federal chief information officer, stood by Archuleta during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Thursday.

“I can see a delineation point from when director Archuleta took office” on how the agency approached cybersecurity, he told Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonTrump, GOP shift focus from alleged surveillance abuse to Durham Russia probe Here are the Senate Republicans who could vote to convict Trump GOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties MORE (R-Wis.), the committee chairman.

Johnson pressed Scott on his support, pointing to Archuleta’s failure to meet personally with FBI Director James Comey about the hack or heed warnings from the agency’s inspector general about security shortcomings.

Johnson called it a “record of failure.”

“[It] really gives me great pause in terms of confidence that the current management team at OPM is really up to the task,” he said. “Do you really have confidence ... when they have shown such a lack of priority and attention to this issue?”

Scott unequivocally replied that he did. In her 18 months on the job, Archuleta has set the agency on course to correct “an historic set of issues,” he said.

He noted the hiring of OPM Chief Information Officer Donna Seymour as an important move.

There has been, Scott said, “a dramatic difference in terms of the actions that were not only planned but began execution." 

He warned that the derision and blame that lawmakers have dumped on Archuleta in the wake of the breach could create “a chilling effect on anybody wanting to come in and take one of these roles."

The sentiment was echoed by a number of senators.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the committee’s top Democrat, cautioned that Archuleta had been working without the necessary funds and without a deputy director, a position that has been unfilled for years at the OPM.

“I think we need to be fair,” he said.