US personnel chief resigns in wake of massive data breach

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Millions More Americans Hit by Government Hack

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The embattled head of the government's personnel office abruptly stepped down Friday, bowing to mounting pressure following the unprecedented breach of private information her agency was entrusted to protect.

Katherine Archuleta had served as director of the federal Office of Personnel Management since November 2013. The former national political director for President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign, Archuleta came under scathing criticism amid revelations this year that hackers - widely believed to be China's government - had infiltrated her agency's databases as well as background-check records for millions who applied for U.S. security clearances.

On Thursday, Archuleta had rebuffed demands that she resign, declaring she was "committed to the work that I am doing." But her continued tenure at the agency grew untenable as calls from lawmakers - including members of Obama's own party - mushroomed. On Friday morning, she came to the White House to personally submit her resignation to Obama.

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US personnel chief resigns in wake of massive data breach
Katherine Archuleta, director of the Office of Personnel Management, listens during a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill June 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. Witnesses testified about the hacking of Office of Personnel Management data. (Photo credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
From left Katherine Archuleta, director of the Office of Personnel Management, US Chief Information Officer Tony Scott, Assistant Homeland Security Secretary for National Protection and Programs Andy Ozment, and McFarland, inspector general of the Office of Personnel Management, are sworn in during a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill June 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. Witnesses testified about the hacking of Office of Personnel Management data. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 23 - Katherine Archuleta, director, Office of Personnel Management, testifies during a Senate Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee hearing to review data security and information technology spending at the Office of Personal Management on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, June 23, 2015. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 23: Katherine Archuleta, director of Office of Personnel Management, arrives for a Senate Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee hearing to review information technology spending and data security at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, on Capitol Hill, June 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. FBI Director James Comey recently told Senators in a closed-door meeting that the personal data of an estimated 18 million current and former federal employees were affected by a recent cyber breach at the Office of Personnel Management. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest answers questions on the massive cyber-attack on the personal data of government employees June 5, 2015 during the daily briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC. The US government on Thursday admitted hackers accessed the personal data of at least four million current and former federal employees, in a vast cyber-attack suspected to have originated in China. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest answers questions on the massive cyber-attack on the personal data of government employees June 5, 2015 during the daily briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC. The US government on Thursday admitted hackers accessed the personal data of at least four million current and former federal employees, in a vast cyber-attack suspected to have originated in China. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A gate leading to the Homeland Security Department headquarters in northwest Washington, Friday, June 5, 2015. China-based hackers are suspected once again of breaking into U.S. government computer networks, and the entire federal workforce could be at risk this time. The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement that data from the Office of Personnel Management _ the human resources department for the federal government _ and the Interior Department had been compromised. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest answers questions on the massive cyber-attack on the personal data of government employees June 5, 2015 during the daily briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC. The US government on Thursday admitted hackers accessed the personal data of at least four million current and former federal employees, in a vast cyber-attack suspected to have originated in China. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 05: The Theodore Roosevelt Federal Building that houses the Office of Personnel Management headquarters is shown June 5, 2015 in Washington, DC. U.S. investigators have said that at least four million current and former federal employees might have had their personal information stolen by Chinese hackers. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 05: The entrance to the Theodore Roosevelt Federal Building that houses the Office of Personnel Management headquarters is shown June 5, 2015 in Washington, DC. U.S. investigators have said that at least four million current and former federal employees might have had their personal information stolen by Chinese hackers. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 05: The Theodore Roosevelt Federal Building that houses the Office of Personnel Management headquarters is shown June 5, 2015 in Washington, DC. U.S. investigators have said that at least four million current and former federal employees might have had their personal information stolen by Chinese hackers. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
White House press secretary Josh Earnest speaks about the Chinese hack of the computer system of the Office of Personnel Management, Friday, June 5, 2015, during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Graphic shows details of recent notable data breaches by organization; 3c x 6 inches; 146 mm x 152 mm;
FILE - This Feb. 24, 2015, file photo, shows the Homeland Security Department headquarters in northwest Washington. The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement Thursday, June 4, 2015, that data from the Office of Personnel Management and the Interior Department had been hacked. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
The American flag is reflected in a window at the Theodore Roosevelt Building, headquarters of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, June 5, 2015. The disclosure by U.S. officials that Chinese hackers stole records of as many as 4 million government workers is now being linked to the thefts of personal information from health-care companies. The hackers, thought to have links to the Chinese government, got into the OPM computer system late last year, according to one U.S. official. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Vehicles drive past the Theodore Roosevelt Building, headquarters of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, June 5, 2015. The disclosure by U.S. officials that Chinese hackers stole records of as many as 4 million government workers is now being linked to the thefts of personal information from health-care companies. The hackers, thought to have links to the Chinese government, got into the OPM computer system late last year, according to one U.S. official. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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He named Beth Cobert, currently deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, to step in as acting director at OPM.

"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," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

Archuleta's resignation came one day after the administration disclosed that the number of people affected by the federal data breach was far greater than previously known. In addition to 4.2 million people whose records were stolen in an initial hack first revealed earlier this year, more than 21.5 million had their Social Security numbers and other sensitive information stolen in a second hack, believed to be the biggest in U.S. history.

Archuleta offered her resignation "of her own volition" and wasn't forced out, Earnest said. At the same time, he conceded that Americans affected by the breach are still "due additional information" from the agency about what happened and how to protect themselves.

Republican lawmakers who had fueled the growing calls for her resignation said it was too little, too late. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska responded to the news with a two-word statement: "Not enough."

"It's a Band-Aid, but it's not going to stop the bleeding," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He said in an interview that OPM still lacks a functional system to protect private data held by what is effectively the largest human resources department in the world.

"It's time to bring in the nerds," he added.

But J. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, put part of the blame on Congress for failing to adequately fund OPM. "Firing one individual solves nothing," he said.

Archuleta joins a small but notable group of top Obama administration officials who have resigned under pressure from Congress and the public. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki stepped down last year amid a growing scandal over VA health care, and Secret Service Director Julia Pierson was pushed aside in 2014 following breaches to Obama's security. Obama forced acting Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Steven Miller to resign in 2013 after revelations came to light about an IRS office's treatment of tea party applications for tax-exempt status.

In the OPM case, the data stolen by hackers included criminal, financial, health, employment and residency histories, as well as information about families and acquaintances. The second, larger attack affected not only applicants for security clearances but also nearly 2 million of their spouses, housemates and others.

Numerous U.S. lawmakers who have been briefed by federal investigators have said emphatically that China was responsible, and even National Intelligence Director James Clapper has said publicly that China is the "leading suspect."

Yet even as Archuleta stepped down, the White House declined to point the finger at Beijing, reflecting the diplomatic sensitivities involved in such an accusation against a global economic superpower. Obama's cybersecurity coordinator, Michael Daniel, said cryptically, "Just because we're not doing public attribution does not mean that we're not taking steps to deal with the matter."

U.S. officials have said the hackers do not appear to have used the data since the theft. The White House said it has stepped up cybersecurity efforts, and in early June government employees received notice that OPM would offer credit-monitoring services and identity-theft insurance to those affected.

Cobert, the agency's chief performance officer, has been confirmed by the Senate once before, which could make her an attractive candidate to be Archuleta's permanent replacement. Yet lawmakers may be reluctant to support her again given her role as the No. 2 at the agency during the data breach. Prior to joining OPM, Cobert worked for nearly three decades as a consultant for McKinsey & Company.

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Associated Press writers Jack Gillum, Alicia A. Caldwell, Jim Kuhnhenn and Julie Pace contributed to this report.

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