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Key senator blasts Personnel Management Office chief over cyber breach

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(Reuters) — The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee said on Thursday the director of the Office of Personnel Management should not be allowed to stay in place to deal with the aftermath of a data breach by suspected Chinese hackers.

“I never would’ve appointed her,” Republican Senator Ron Johnson said of Katherine Archuleta after a committee hearing.

“I didn’t vote for her confirmation. I wouldn’t rely on her to clean up this mess. I don’t think she’s qualified to do so,” he told reporters.

Sen. Johnson said it was up to President Barack Obama to decide whether Ms. Archuleta would remain in office but that he did not think she was capable of enacting reforms or providing the security that U.S. information technology systems need.

OPM spokesmen could not immediately be reached for comment. The White House has said Ms. Archuleta, who has held her office for about two years, has the president’s support.

Many members of Congress have been clamoring for Ms. Archuleta’s resignation since U.S. officials announced early this month that hackers had broken into OPM computers and the data of millions of current and former federal employees had been compromised.

Since then, they revealed another security breach that put at risk personal information of many millions more Americans, and their relatives and friends, who had applied for security clearances.

Johnson’s comments followed a hearing before the Homeland Security panel where Ms. Archuleta was the lead witness. Ms. Archuleta has testified in at least three public hearings in Congress this week alone.

OPM Inspector General Patrick McFarland, when asked at the hearing about his confidence in the agency leadership’s ability to resolve security issues, said: “I believe that the interest and intent is there. But based on what we’ve found, no.”

U.S. officials have said they suspect the data breaches are connected to China, but the administration has not yet publicly accused Beijing. China denies any involvement in hacking U.S. databases.