Office of Personnel Management CIO Steps Down Days Before Data Breach Hearing

CIO Donna Seymour retired from her position amid the controversy over last summer's hack that exposed millions of government workers' private information.

by Alisha Green, CQ-Roll Call / February 23, 2016
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management Mark Van Scyoc / Shutterstock.com

(TNS) -- Office of Personnel Management Chief Information Officer Donna Seymour announced Monday she is retiring — just two days before she was scheduled to testify at a House Oversight and Government Reform hearing on a data breach that compromised the records of more than 22 million current and former government employees.

Seymour follows in the footsteps of the agency’s previous director, Katherine Archuleta, who stepped down in July after the agency announced that millions of people were affected by the massive hack of OPM networks.

Seymour, who spent 37 years working for the federal government, told her colleagues in an email Monday that her decision to resign as chief information officer was made “with a heavy heart.”

“Leaving OPM at this time was a very tough decision for me, but I feel it is in the agency’s best interest that my presence does not distract from the great work this team does every single day,” she wrote.

Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who had repeatedly called for Seymour to be removed following the breach, said in a statement that her retirement is “an important turning point.”

“While I am disappointed Ms. Seymour will no longer appear before our committee this week to answer to the American people, her retirement is necessary and long overdue,” Chaffetz said. “On her watch, whether through negligence or incompetence, millions of Americans lost their privacy and personal data.”

He called for a “qualified CIO at the helm” of OPM to help “restore confidence in the agency.”

Chaffetz’s committee had two other hearings on the breach in June 2015. Wednesday’s hearing has now been canceled.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., ranking member of House Oversight, defended Seymour in a statement, noting that the committee’s investigation found the attack “was already underway at the time Seymour took office in December 2013.”

“During the Oversight Committee’s work over the past year, we have heard from numerous experts inside and outside the agency who have commended Ms. Seymour for her professionalism, her competence, and her aggressive response to the OPM data breach,” Cummings said. “Unfortunately, efforts by Republicans to blame her for the cyberattack on OPM are both unfair and inaccurate, and they set a terrible precedent that will discourage qualified experts from taking on the challenges our nation faces in the future.”

OPM’s Acting Director Beth Cobert announced Seymour’s retirement Monday in an email to employees.

“Donna came to OPM in late 2013 and inherited enormous information technology challenges that were years in the making. Donna made significant progress in addressing those challenges,” Cobert said.

In her email, Cobert told OPM employees she would “be in touch shortly about new leadership.”

Seymour also received support from the White House. “Indeed, it was because of Donna and her team’s actions that OPM identified the cyberbreach of its systems,” U.S. Chief Information Officer Tony Scott said in a statement. “In the subsequent weeks and months, they worked tirelessly to remediate the situation and embarked on the hard and necessary work to further improve the state of IT at OPM.”

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