Amid congressional scrutiny another CIO to resign

The Office of Personnel Management’s chief information officer is stepping down after two years of service and just two days before a scheduled appearance on Capitol Hill to discuss the agency’s massive data breach.

Donna Seymour retired Feb. 22, according to an internal email from OPM acting Director Beth Cobert. The Feb. 24 House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on the breach was canceled minutes after the announcement.

“Donna became OPM’s Chief Information Officer in late 2013 and inherited enormous information technology challenges that were years in the making,” Cobert said. “Donna made significant progress in addressing those challenges. She helped modernize and enhance the security of OPM’s IT systems, revamped the CIO’s office, brought in new talent, consolidated and elevated the role of IT security, and worked to obtain the tools, resources and interagency expertise needed to improve OPM’s capabilities. Although we have more work to do to continue that progress, OPM’s IT infrastructure and security are in a better place today because of Donna’s efforts.”

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Donna Seymour (OPM)

Cobert said she would be in touch about new leadership.

Federal CIO Tony Scott echoed Cobert’s message, crediting Seymour and her team’s work for identifying the cyber breach and spearheading the agency’s effort to address it.

“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,” Scott said. “We are in a significantly better place today because of Donna.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, thanked Seymour for her decades of public service.

“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 in a statement. “Unfortunately, efforts by Republicans to blame her for the cyber attack 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.”

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the oversight committee, said OPM is now faced with a need to put “a qualified CIO at the helm to right the ship and restore confidence in the agency.”

“Ms. Seymour’s retirement is good news and an important turning point for OPM. 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,” said Chaffetz, who’s called on Seymour to resign at least twice. “On her watch, whether through negligence or incompetence, millions of Americans lost their privacy and personal data. The national security implications of this entirely foreseeable breach are far-reaching and long-lasting.”

Chaffetz was joined in June by 17 Republican House members calling for Seymour’s removal. The group also called for the resignation of former OPM Director Katherine Archuleta. She stepped down one month later.

In a letter to President Barack Obama, the lawmakers said OPM leaders failed to adequately address known cybersecurity weaknesses that led to two cyber data breaches that exposed the personally identifiable information of 21.5 million current and former federal employees.

One of those lawmakers, Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), released a critical statement Monday after Seymour’s resignation.

“Her refusal to follow best practices and take responsibility initially is an insult to those compromised [by the breach],” he said. “Unfortunately, this is little comfort knowing their information could be in the hands of our nation’s enemies. The next OPM CIO must have a strong understanding of basic cyber hygiene and the willingness to do what it takes to get this problem fixed.”

OPM hired Seymour in December 2013. She’s a former deputy chief human capital officer for the Defense Department, worked as associate chief information officer for information technology policy oversight at the Transportation Department and as the CIO of Transportation’s Maritime Administration.

Read all of Federal News Radio’s coverage of the OPM Cyber Breach.