Cybersecurity

Senate panel to consider OPM nominee next week

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is set to weigh the nomination of Beth Cobert to be the full director of the Office of Personnel Management.

{mosads}The committee will hold a hearing Tuesday on Cobert, who is currently the acting director of the agency.

Cobert has headed the OPM since lawmaker pressure forced the resignation of its former director, Katherine Archuleta, in the wake of the massive hack on the agency discovered last spring.

Formerly the U.S. chief performance officer and deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, Cobert started work at the OMB in 2013 and worked to streamline the government’s turgid process for acquiring information technology.

She has received mostly praise from Capitol Hill in her first few months heading the agency. Lawmakers expressed hope at the time of her nomination that she would serve a full four-year tenure as OPM chief.

“In my initial meetings with Beth Cobert, she has impressed me as a talented, qualified and competent choice for OPM director,” said House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who led the charge against Archuleta and OPM leadership during a series of hearings on the hacks.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, worked with Cobert in her role at the OMB.

“I find her to be someone who is impressive, decisive, and well-respected on both sides of the aisle in Congress,” he said of her nomination in November. “She is someone who can continue to help lead OPM through this challenging time.”

Since taking the reins, Cobert has been tasked with notifying the 21.5 million former and current federal employees, contractors and others that were exposed by the breach.

The agency has come under some fire for its handling of the notification process. Critics argue the OPM took too long to award the contract for a suite of identity theft protection services offered to victims, and too long again to mail notifications.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in November that he will use the nomination process to seek more answers on how the administration will rebuild the trust that it can properly secure sensitive data.

The news came on the heels of a decision to have the Defense Department secure the millions of background check forms that were exposed during the hack.  

The Obama administration on Friday said it would establish a new government-wide office, the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB), to handle background investigations for almost the entire federal government. But the DOD will design, build, secure and operate the NBIB’s entire information technology system, the administration said.

“This approach will leverage DOD’s significant national security, IT and cybersecurity expertise, incorporating security into the fundamental design of the systems, strengthening the security of the data environment, and providing robust privacy protections,” said an OPM release.

Tags Jason Chaffetz Mitch McConnell Tom Carper
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