Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush wants President Obama to fire the head of the Office of Personnel Management amid a cascade of revelations about the size and scope of an enormous hack of federal employee data from the agency.
The Republican presidential candidate Tuesday sharply condemned the president's handling of the theft of personal data of millions of former and current government workers, and said OPM Director Katherine Archuleta needs to be removed.
"You have a political hack—you have the national political director of the Obama reelection campaign as the head of this," Bush said on Bill Bennett's Morning in America radio program. "And just as has been the case across the board when we have this sheer incompetence or scandalous behavior, there's no accountability. No one ever seems—no one seems to be fired. If I was president of the United States, that person would be fired."
Bush's call for Archuleta's ouster is similar to statements made by a handful of lawmakers—both Republicans and Democrats—last week following her testimony before the House Oversight Committee. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the panel's chairman, said that Archuleta, in addition to Donna Seymour, OPM's chief information officer, should be fired for ignoring cybersecurity recommendations made in inspector general reports issued over the past several years.
Reps. Ted Lieu and Jim Langevin, both Democrats, also have said Archuleta, who has been at the helm of OPM since late 2013, needs to go. Despite the pressure, the White House press secretary Josh Earnest has said the administration stands firmly behind Archuleta.
Bush, in his radio interview, echoed many of the grievances bubbling up on Capitol Hill.
"They did not follow up on inspector general's recommendations to tighten up security to create a stronger firewall," Bush said. "The net result is that the Chinese—apparently the Chinese—have had access to this information for over a year and it's a dangerous threat to our national security."
Archuleta began a week-long gauntlet of testimony Tuesday before the Senate Appropriations Committee's Financial Services and General Government subcommittee. In response to a series of questions about who should be held accountable for for the two massive breaches disclosed over the past month, Archuleta said: "I don't believe anyone is personally responsible."
"If there's anyone to blame, it's the perpetrators," Archuleta said, later adding, "I'm angry as you are that this has happened to OPM."
Sen. John Boozman, an Arkansas Republican and chair of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee, told reporters after Tuesday's hearing that he was not ready to call for resignations at OPM, though he said that may change as he learns more about the situation.
"I don't know exactly the extent of the second breach that's been classified, so we'll do that this afternoon and we'll have her on," Boozman said, referring to a closed-door briefing the Senate was scheduled to receive from administration officials on Tuesday. "I don't think it's fair for me to do that without having all the information."
Senior administration officials investigating the breach of employee records and security-clearance information believe China to be the culprit, but the White House has not publicly condemned Beijing.
According to CNN, the personal data of 18 million former, current, and prospective federal employees may have been exposed by the cyberattacks—a number more than quadruple the 4.2 million that OPM has said it believes were affected.
Bush's comments about the OPM hack coincided with his op-ed that was published Monday onMedium, in which he said Obama needs to pay closer attention to the evolving cybersecurity threats facing the country and threw his support behind legislation pending in Congress that would increase the sharing of "cyberthreat data" between government and the private sector.
"President Obama should step up, show some leadership, and work with Congress to pass this legislation — a key step towards creating a more robust public-private partnership," Bush wrote.
Privacy advocates and some cybersecurity experts warn that such legislation could lead to more government surveillance and that it would be ineffective in fending off cyberattacks, however.
Kaveh Waddell contributed to this article.