Callahan resigns from Homeland Security Department

Laura Callahan, former senior director in the Homeland Security Department's CIO office, resigned from the department today. Callahan had been on administrative leave with pay since last June, after a GCN investigation revealed that she had three questionable degrees from a diploma mill in Wyoming.

DHS spokeswoman Valerie Smith said, 'Laura Callahan has resigned effective March 26. It is the agency's policy not to comment on individual personnel matters.' Callahan, who before moving to DHS had been deputy CIO of the Labor Department, lost her security clearance following the department's decision to place her on administrative leave, so she could not work in the CIO office.

GCN last year reported that dozens of federal employees and contractors have questionable degrees (Click for GCN story).

The executive and legislative branches subsequently teamed up to address the diploma mill issue. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who earlier investigated the issue and received a fake degree in her name'joined with Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) to press for action on the issue. Collins is chairwoman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee and Davis is chairman of the House Government Reform Committee.

As a result of the public and congressional attention to the bogus-degree issue, Education Secretary Ron Paige has adopted a recommendation from a summit on the problem: the department plans to post on the Web a consolidated list of accredited institutions. In addition, the Office of Personnel Management has held seminars for federal human resources officials on ways to detect questionable credentials. OPM also plans to modify federal job application forms so they will reflect the accreditation status of institutions from which prospective employees hold degrees. (Related story).

Collins and Davis have commissioned a General Accounting Office study of the issue, which likely will be released in a few weeks and will be followed by Senate hearings on questionable credentials, according to Collins spokeswoman Andrea Hofelich.

Davis spokesman Rob White said, "This chapter may have closed. But Chairman Davis will continue to look for ways to ensure that no federal employee uses phony or inflated academic credentials to get his or her job. We have engaged with agencies such as OPM, the GAO and the Education Department to try to determine the scope of this problem and to make sure agencies know how to verify academic degrees."

Neither Callahan nor her attorney, Ralph Lotkin, could be immediately reached for comment.

Callahan's degrees were from Hamilton University in Evanston, Wyo., which operates out of a refurbished motel (Click for GCN story). The diploma mill's Web site, at www.hamilton-university.edu/index2_f.html still advertises its degree-granting services in an apparently unchanged fashion.

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