OPM, DHS leaders ditch data-breach hearing

Representatives from three federal agencies made a last-minute decision to evade testimony in a classified congressional briefing on Tuesday.

The Office of Personnel Management, the Office of Management and Budget, and Department of Homeland Security all declined to testify before the House Armed Services Committee about the OPM breach that took place this year. The reason they cited was that the hearing would be transcribed.

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Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, blasted the agencies in a statement. "OPM, Homeland Security and OMB's last-minute refusal to appear before this committee is unacceptable," Thornberry said. "Their excuse, that the testimony would be on the record, is disturbing.

"Let me be clear; this briefing covers the largest government data breach in history. The overwhelming victims of the breach are our troops and the [Defense Department] civilians who work to support them — not to mention the force protection implications from a breach of personally-identifiable information of their family members and dependents… There is no excuse at all for being unwilling to explain on the record about how the breach happened and what we are doing to prevent another one," the statement added.

The breach, traced to the Chinese government, resulted in the exfiltration of personnel files on more than 21 million individuals who have applied for security clearances from the U.S. government. The hearing would have examined security lapses prior to the breach and the mechanisms that have been put in place since it was discovered in June.

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