OPM Director Katherine Archuleta steps down after massive data breach

WASHINGTON: Katherine Archuleta, Director of Office of Personnel Management, stepped down under pressure on Friday, a day after the government officials revealed that the recent personal data breech was vastly larger than originally thought.


Katherine Archuleta, the director of the Office of Personnel Management, at a Senate hearing last month. Ms. Archuleta resigned the post on Friday. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America

A day before Archuleta’s resignation, Obama Administration officials announced that sensitive information including personnel records and security-clearance files of at least 22.1 million people have been compromised through two major breaches last year.

Ms. Archuleta, who had been leading the personal management agency for the last 17 months, met with President Obama in White House on Friday to give her resignation letter. Following her resignation, she said that she felt new leadership was required at the Office of Personnel Management to enable it to “get it out of the current challenges.”

Archuleta confirmed her resignation through an email to OPM staff.

“I write to you this afternoon to share that earlier today, I offered and the President accepted my resignation as the Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management,” she wrote. “Leading this agency and serving with all of you has been the highlight of my career.”

The current deputy director at the Office of Management and Budget and U.S. chief performance officer, Beth Cobert, will take over on Saturday as acting director of OPM.

Earlier on Thursday, Archuleta acknowledged that OPM had discovered this April that hackers had breached sensitive personnel databases and compromised 22.1 million personnel data of current, former and prospective employees of the U.S. government along with their family members.

Archuleta’s resignation marked a prompt reversal but did not calm down the aftershocks of the disclosure this week of probably the biggest cybertheft affecting millions of US government employees. She also insisted in a conference call on Thursday with reporters that she would pin point to the authorities all the vulnerabilities that led to the breach.

According to some officials requesting anonymity, both the attacks have been originated from China. However, Obama administration officials have declined to name any culprit.

Obama administration on Friday struggled to cope with the fallout from the breach, which compromised the personnel and sensitive data including social security numbers, financial and health histories, addresses and other private details of millions of US government employees, and come up with a plan with longer-term implications of computer security lapse that has identified severe weaknesses in the security of the government systems.

A top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam Schiff of California, said “I don’t think we can expect that a change of a single person can be a satisfactory answer to the problems at O.P.M.”. He also welcomed the resignation of Archuleta following the breach.

“Every agency of America should have its head examined whether he is taking steps to protect its data,” Mr. Schiff said. “Because if there’s a problem at one agency, there’s probably problem at other agencies.”

Republican of Nebraska, Senator Ben Sasse, said in a statement on Friday that the breach may have handed “the largest spy-recruiting database in history.” over to China, adding that “Unless we admit our mistakes, and build a robust response and deterrence strategy, it will absolutely happen again,”

Ms. Archuleta started at the personnel agency in 2013, and served in the Clinton administration as the chief of staff of the Labor Department, and later under Mr. Obama.

Earlier in 2013 after she joined the personnel agency, she unveiled a plan of action that included improvements to obsolete computer systems and bolstering protections against cyber-attacks. But she badly failed to achieve the goals of the plan she proposed.





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