Frank Konkel | Nextgov | April 19, 2017 | 0 Comments

House Oversight Chair—And IT Reform Ally—Won't Run for Reelection

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah Rick Bowmer/AP

One of Congress’ key oversight officials won’t be seeking reelection in 2018.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, announced on Facebook he would “return to the private sector” in 2018, though he didn’t rule out coming back to politics down the line.

“Many of you have heard me advocate, ‘Get in, serve and get out,’” Chaffetz said in his post. “After more than 1,500 nights away from my home, it is time. I may run again for public office, but not in 2018.” 

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Chaffetz was a thorn in the Obama administration’s side, using his oversight powers to review the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and repeatedly probed Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. He accused Clinton officials of obstructing justice, of “spillage” of classified information and once led an oversight committee vote to hold one of Clinton’s former tech aides in contempt.

Chaffetz also starred in Congress’ investigation of the Office of Personnel Management breach that compromised millions of security clearance files. The hack became public in 2015, but Chaffetz’s investigation revealed hackers first broke into OPM networks in 2012. The Obama administration reacted swiftly following the news, embarking on a cyber sprint to shore up federal systems.

Chaffetz chaired the House oversight committee during the passage of the Federal Information Technology and Acquisition Reform Act, important IT reform that continues to increase transparency and accountability in tech spending. He was an outspoken critic of the government’s reliance on outdated technology, once calling it a ticking time bomb, yet opposed a proposed $3 billion IT upgrade fund, deeming it “hogwash.”

Ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said Chaffetz “has fundamentally changed the culture of our committee” so members “can disagree without being disagreeable.”

“Chairman Chaffetz is a tenacious and dedicated public servant, and I thank him for showing sincere interest in issues that matter to me and many others on the committee,” Cummings said in a statement. “After seeing his district and his state first-hand, I can certainly understand why it is calling him back. It is an honor to serve with Jason on the oversight committee, and I wish him and his family all the best in the next chapter of their lives.”

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., told Nextgov Chaffetz deserved kudos for pursuing postal reform in bipartisan fashion and was a welcomed ally in IT reform.

“He’s been supportive of IT reform efforts,” Connolly said.

Chaffetz joined Connolly and Reps. Will Hurd, R-Texas, Robin Kelly, D-Ill., Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and Darrell Issa, R-Calif., in a bipartisan commission tackling IT issues across the federal landscape. Connolly said the two were at loggerheads over other issues, including Clinton’s email use, turmoil around Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen and moving parts of the government located within Washington, D.C., outside the city.

After President Donald Trump’s election, Chaffetz’s tech-related headlines were less about oversight. In March, he famously said low-income Americans would have to choose health care over iPhones and walked it back amid significant controversy. He also decided the committee would not investigate former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s communications with Russia.

Cybersecurity continues to be a priority area for Chaffetz and the House oversight committee in the coming year, according to the committee’s agenda. Other tech-related items of importance include: IT modernization, background checks, privacy issues, drones and the FBI’s facial recognition systems.

Chaffetz didn’t rule out a run for Utah governor or a Senate seat—with elections in 2020 and 2018, respectively—when pressed on The Doug Wright Radio Show today.

“In 2017, I’m not willing to commit one way or the other,” Chaffetz said.

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