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Following Investigation, Beleaguered Education CIO Steps Down

Molly Riley/AP

The Education Department’s chief information officer is stepping down just weeks after grueling questioning by Congress about potential misconduct.

Danny Harris is leaving his post at the end of the month to prevent “becoming a distraction to the department’s critical ongoing cybersecurity work,” according to a statement from Education Department Press Secretary Dorie Turner Nolt.

Harris had been the subject of an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General, which surfaced allegations that he was operating side businesses without disclosing the income on tax forms, and also that he maintained a close personal relationship with the president of a federal technology contractor, among others.

Harris collapsed and was taken to the hospital immediately following a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing in early February, during which members including Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah., analyzed Harris’ actions in great detail.

Chaffetz had argued that “by virtually every metric, [Harris] is failing to adequately secure the department’s systems,” noting that Education has a 10 percent turnover rate for IT staff. He also pointed to the department's poor performance in a federal “cyber sprint,” an effort to improve cyber practices after the Office of Personnel Management fell victim to a massive data breach.

Harris had “previously considered retirement” but stayed to “see the department through” the cyber sprint, according to a statement.

“Having made significant progress in recent months toward the department’s cybersecurity goals, and because he did not want to risk becoming a distraction to the department’s critical ongoing cybersecurity work, Danny has decided that now is the right time for him to retire and explore opportunities outside the department," according to the statement. 

Education plans to “move quickly” to find a new CIO; in the interim, Deputy CIO Steve Grewal, formerly the chief information security officer, plans to step in.

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