Zero trust, Security Staff Acquisition & Development, Compliance Management

Pentagon eliminates former CMMC leader Arrington’s office

The federal government has awarded a contract to CounterCraft for a new deception platform that will be deployed throughout the Department of Defense. (Photo By USAF/Getty Images)

The CISO office for the under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment position has been eliminated “effective immediately,” while its core responsibilities will be shifted to the Defense Department's chief information officer.

The decision will disestablish not only the chief information security officer (CISO) position, but its office as well, according to a Feb. 2 memo signed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks.

“Affected personnel will be reassigned as soon as practicable in the same grade and series, or equivalent, and on the same position descriptions to other positions in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as appropriate,” Hicks wrote.

The position and office was created in 2019 under the Trump administration specifically to manage and oversee the then-new Cybersecurity and Maturity Model Certification Program, which aims to measure the digital security compliance of defense contractors. The administration wound up appointing Katie Arrington, businesswoman and Republican political candidate, to the post in 2019.

According to the memo, responsibility for the CMMC program and supply chain risk management for telecommunications infrastructure is being placed under the DoD chief information officer. The under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment will retain ownership of the non-telecommunications aspects of the Supply Chain Risk Management Program, the Strategic Cybersecurity Program and evaluating cyber vulnerabilities in major weapons systems.

The move comes just days after the federal government formally reached an agreement in a D.C. District Court to settle a lawsuit brought by Arrington last year. The deal will force DoD and the National Security Agency to provide Arrington’s lawyers with information around the incident that led to her being placed on administrative leave and the suspension of her security clearance last year, details they say are critical to mounting a substantive defense for their client.

It also comes as rumors have swirled in South Carolina political circles that Arrington may be gearing up to make another run for Congress this year. In 2018, Arrington dispatched fellow Republican Mark Sanford in a primary for the 1st Congressional District before losing to Democrat Cal Cunningham in the general election. That seat is now held by Republican Nancy Mace. FitsNews, a South Carolina political news and opinion site run by Sanford’s former press secretary, claims that former President Donald Trump is considering endorsing Arrington for the seat, while polling is quietly being conducted to gauge the prospects of a primary challenge against Mace.

SC Media has not independently confirmed that Arrington intends to run for office and has reached out to her representatives for comment. Arrington's lawyer, Mark Zaid, told SC Media that he was not involved in decisions about his client's political aspirations but did say that the move to eliminate her DOD position was "expected."

"It had actually been known and expected for months that DoD planned to eliminate Ms. Arrington's position as CISO, although the timing of the formal issuance in the immediate aftermath of settling the lawsuit is certainly interesting," he said in an email. "In any event, as a member of the Senior Executive Service, DoD is obligated to identify an appropriate new position for Ms. Arrington and it will still require her to maintain a security clearance in good standing."

Derek B. Johnson

Derek is a senior editor and reporter at SC Media, where he has spent the past three years providing award-winning coverage of cybersecurity news across the public and private sectors. Prior to that, he was a senior reporter covering cybersecurity policy at Federal Computer Week. Derek has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Hofstra University in New York and a master’s degree in public policy from George Mason University in Virginia.

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