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July 17 2015

OPM Update: Will "New Leadership" Matter?

Patrice J. Lee

We asked when someone from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) would be held accountable for the largest cyberattack in U.S. history? We were actually surprised when the head honcho herself decided to spend more time with her family.

Late last week, former OPM director Katherine Archuleta resigned, which in Washington, D.C., means she was forced to turn her papers in. The defiant leader did very little other than to be tight-lipped and defiant in the face of credible reports – from their own internal watchdog – that OPM did nothing to ensure the security of the highly sensitive personal information they collected on every man or woman who works, worked, or even applied for a job with the federal government.

Archuleta finally broke the agency’s silence on the size and scope of the breach. She divulged that the breach led to the theft of personal data of 21.5 million people who had applied for government background checks, likely affecting anyone subjected to such an investigation since 2000. In addition to Social Security numbers, addresses, familial relations, and educational history of some individuals, thieves stole fingerprints, mental health and financial data of individuals seeking a security clearance during background investigations. This occurred over two separate data breaches.

When Archuleta detailed the scope of the breaches on a conference call late last week, Ms. Archuleta, she insisted she would not step down despite calls from members of Congress in both parties that she do so.

It must’ve been a long, embarrassing walk for Archuleta to the White House to deliver her resignation the next day.

USA Today reported last week:

Katherine Archuleta, the embattled director of the Office of Personnel Management, resigned Friday in the wake of two massive hack attacks against her agency that compromised the data of more than 21 million Americans.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Archuleta resigned "of her own volition." He said Archuleta realized that the technology challenges now facing OPM "require a manager with a special set of skills."

President Obama believes "it's quite clear that new leadership" with unique skills is "badly needed" at OPM, Earnest said.

Earnest said Archuleta did some good things at OPM, including installing new security systems that enabled officials to detect one of two major hacks against the agency.

A growing number of members of Congress had been calling for Archuleta to resign, in part because they believe she did not heed warnings from her own inspector general and others about the vulnerability of OPM's systems.

Archuleta, who has been at OPM for about 18 months, blamed the data breaches in part on the agency's aging systems, some of which are 30 years old.

She told reporters Thursday that she intended to stay on the job, but she resigned Friday in the face of mounting criticism from lawmakers of both political parties.

This is welcomed news but just the tip of the iceberg for what needs to happen at OPM. What is the agency currently doing to change the way it operates?

Beth Cobert, the deputy director of management at the Office of Management and Budget, will step in to temporarily replace Ms. Archuleta while a permanent replacement is found. One federal union is excited because she has been involved in the investigation of the cyberattacks and can offer her past leadership experience. A union pat on the back isn’t necessarily the best seal of approval.

House cleaning at OPM is welcome--bureaucrats are rarely held responsible in the fire-proof town of Washington. But what we really need to talk about is the general unresponsiveness of big government.



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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