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Science & Technology

OPM Director Katherine Archuleta Resigns After Massive Data Hack

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The number has kept growing - the people who've had their personal data stolen from government computers. Yesterday, the White House said the data of more than 20 million people was compromised in the breach of the Office of Personnel Management. Today, the head of the agency resigned, and acting replacement was quickly named. Here's NPR's Brian Naylor with more.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Katherine Archuleta had been under fire before the latest revelation of the severity of the data breaches at OPM computers. But the news yesterday that 22 million federal employees, most of whom had undergone security background checks, and their family members had their data stolen was the final straw. And after stating she was committed to staying at OPM, Archuleta today bowed to pressure. In her statement, she said she told the president that, in her words, "I believe it is best for me to step aside and allow new leadership to step in." White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, said Obama agreed.

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JOSH EARNEST: I think what the president thinks is that it's quite clear that new leadership with a set of skills and experiences that are unique to the urgent challenges that OPM faces are badly needed.

NAYLOR: Archuleta came to OPM after serving as national political director for Barack Obama's re-election campaign. She was the first Latina to head OPM. As the federal government's HR department, OPM is the keeper of massive databases of federal employees, and the repeated breaches of those databases, believed to have been at the hands of China, seems to have overwhelmed her. Her toughest critic, House Oversight Committee chairman, Jason Chaffetz, called Archuleta's resignation, quote, "the absolute right call."

The president named Beth Cobert as OPM's acting director. Cobert comes from a business management, not political, background. Earnest says as deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Cobert has overseen administration efforts aimed at improving government performance.

EARNEST: So the president believes that she is, at least on an acting basis, the right person for the job while we search for a permanent replacement for Director Archuleta.

NAYLOR: Whoever that is will have their work cut out. Among other things, OPM must find someone to provide credit monitoring and ID protection for the tens of millions whose data was stolen and find a way to keep the OPM's computers from being hacked again. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.