Donna Seymour, the chief information officer for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, announced her resignation Monday, two days before she was scheduled to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about the massive data breach that affected more than 20 million federal employees and contractors.
“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 for this agency and the American people,” Ms. Seymour said in an email to her colleagues.
Ms. Seymour has spent near 40 years with the federal government and assumed the role of the OPM’s CIO in late 2013. The agency’s computer system was breached the following year. In June, the OPM announced that personally identifiable information pertaining to millions of individuals who had undergone federal backgrounds checks had been compromised in the hack.
The data breach was scheduled to be discussed during by the House committee on Wednesday, but Chairman Jason Chaffetz, Utah Republican, canceled the hearing Monday within minutes of learning of Ms. Seymour’s resignation.
“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,” Mr. Chaffetz said in a statement. “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. OPM now needs a qualified CIO at the helm to right the ship and restore confidence in the agency.”
Mr. Chaffetz had been calling for Ms. Seymour’s resignation ever since news of the breach surfaced last year. The agency’s director at the time of the hack, Katherine Archuleta, resigned in July amid similar calls from the congressman and his Republican colleagues.
Both women are named as defendants in a proposed class-action lawsuit filed by the American Federation of Government Employees over the OPM breach and have been accused of being negligent with respect to protecting the personal information of employees and contractors affected by the breach.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat and ranking committee member, thanked Ms. Seymour for her decades of service in a statement released Monday and blamed Republican lawmakers for making her a scapegoat in the wake of the OPM breach.
“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,” Mr. 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.”
Ms. Seymour worked for the Departments of Defense and Transportation before she was appointed as the OPM’s chief information officer in 2013. Details of a potential replacement were not immediately available.