Davis requests OPM to investigate feds' use of diploma mills

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the Civil and Agency Organization subcommittee, have asked the Office of Personnel Management to explain or create provisions the agency has to guard against federal employees embellishing their resumes with degrees from diploma mills.

"The ease with which these fake credentials can be obtained, and the evident lengths to which the deceit can go?even to the point of manufacturing counterfeit transcripts?is very troubling," they said in the June 4 letter to OPM director Kay Coles James.

The two officials gave James a June 20 deadline to answer several questions:

  • Does OPM have a strategy or guidance for agencies that ensures the acquisition of phony degrees will be discovered before an applicant gets a federal job?

  • Has OPM issued any governmentwide policy requiring agencies to screen credentials of employees "to ensure the credentials they claim are in fact from reputable institutions"?

  • Does OPM or any agency keep records of how many misleading resumes have been discovered as a result of these policies?

  • Does OPM or any agency "keep an ongoing list of suspect institutions that can be used to inform employers and employees of what institutions are unacceptable under OPM policies"?

  • They also asked James to recommend policies OPM could use to avoid hiring or promoting individuals with embellished credentials.

    The request arose from questions about the academic credentials of Laura Callahan, senior director in the office of CIO Steve Cooper at the Homeland Security Department. Callahan came to HSD in April from the Labor Department, where she had been deputy CIO.

    Her official resume lists three degrees from Hamilton University?a bachelor's in computer science in 1993, a master's in computer science in 1995, and a Ph.D. in computer information systems in 2000. The organization has been identified as a diploma mill by the state of Oregon, unaccredited by any agency recognized by the Education Department.

    An HSD spokeswoman said yesterday that the department is taking the question of Callahan's credentials seriously, and the matter is being investigated.

    Several other members of Congress have also ordered HSD to look into the matter.

    (Revised June 9, 2003 12:03 p.m.)

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