Just two days before she was scheduled to appear once more before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Donna Seymour, CIO for the Office of Personnel Management, announced she will retire.
The resignation comes almost eight months after OPM officials announced a massive breach of the agency's networks had resulted in the compromise of millions of personnel records — a number that eventually grew to include 21.5 million current, former and prospective federal employees and their relations.
Then-OPM Director Katherine Archuleta resigned shortly thereafter but Seymour hung on despite calls for her firing.
"With a heavy heart I write to tell you that today I have resigned from my position as OPM's chief information office and retired from federal service," Seymour wrote in a Feb. 22 email to colleagues. "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."
Seymour said she believes OPM and the OCIO are in good hands, pointing to a number of recent senior executive hires "who bring with them a trove of experience and expertise."
Her retirement caps 37 years of public service with the federal government.
"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," OPM acting Director Beth Cobert said. "I am grateful for Donna's dedicated service and wish her all the best."
Seymour was scheduled to appear before the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 24 to answer questions about the breach and OPM's response, however that hearing has now been canceled.
"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 Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who has called for Seymour's ouster several times since last summer. "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."
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., ranking member of the Oversight Committee, had nicer words for Seymour on her departure.
"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 cyberattacks on OPM are both unfair and inaccurate and they set a terrible precedent that will discourage qualified experts from taking on the challenge our nation faces in the future."
Federal CIO Tony Scott expressed a similar worry last year while asserting his support for Seymour.
"This is not a case where we can fire our way to success," Scott told Federal Times in August. "People want to hold folks accountable — and that's good. But the people who are responsible left a long, long time ago."
For her part, Seymour said she didn't want to be a distraction to the ongoing work at OPM and wished her former colleagues the best.
"It has truly been an honor to serve alongside such a talented and dedicated team, who come to work every day committed to serving this agency and supporting its important mission," she said in her farewell email. "I thank each of you who have supported the OCIO over the past two years, and who I have had the pleasure to serve with at OPM. I am very fortunate to have had this opportunity."
Aaron Boyd is an awarding-winning journalist currently serving as editor of Federal Times — a Washington, D.C. institution covering federal workforce and contracting for more than 50 years — and Fifth Domain — a news and information hub focused on cybersecurity and cyberwar from a civilian, military and international perspective.