Obama nominates new chief for hacked U.S. personnel agency

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 10, 2015 5:41 PM

By Dustin Volz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Tuesday nominated Beth Cobert to head the Office of Personnel Management, the U.S. federal agency that has been under intense public and congressional scrutiny since a hack on its computer systems affecting 22 million people was disclosed earlier this year.

Cobert has been the acting director of OPM since Katherine Archuleta, the previous director, resigned in July amid a bipartisan call for her to step down due to her management of the data breach.

Cobert needs approval by the U.S. Senate to be named head of OPM, a vetting process that will likely include probing of how Cobert intends to improve the agency’s cyber defenses.

OPM disclosed two related intrusions into its networks that laid bare the personal information of former and current federal government employees, including contractors. Officials have privately linked the hack to China.

“I look forward to hearing the nominee’s ideas for protecting Americans’ private information, for contacting the millions affected by the attack that inexplicably have not yet heard from OPM, and ensuring that federal employees are not subject to the threat of another massive hack of their private information,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement.

Representative Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, praised Cobert but expressed concern that OPM chief information officer Donna Seymour has not been removed due to her handling of the recent breaches.

Chaffetz urged Cobert to “immediately remove Ms. Seymour.”

Prior to stepping in to lead OPM, Cobert was the Office of Management and Budget’s deputy director for management and the U.S. chief performance director. She spent nearly three decades at McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm, prior to joining the federal workforce.

(Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Ken Wills)