VA changes staff over data theft

The Veterans Affairs Department announced that one official has resigned and other personnel changes have been made as a result of the theft of data of 26.5 million veterans.

Michael McLendon, deputy assistant secretary for policy, submitted his resignation, effective Friday. VA also put acting assistant secretary for policy and planning Dennis Duffy, a long-time career employee, on administrative leave.

The department has begun implementing the procedures to fire the career data analyst who violated policy by taking home unencrypted sensitive data. The analyst, who has been on administrative leave, reported the data was taken along with a laptop and disks when his home was burglarized in early May. The data contained the names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth of 26.5 million veterans and some spouses.

The analyst had authority to access the data but not to take it home, Nicholson said. McLendon, who has been in his position since December 2003, was the analyst's supervisor.

It took almost two weeks after the burglary for department officials to notify VA secretary Jim Nicholson of the data theft.

'In light of recent, unacceptable events within VA's Office of Policy and Planning, I have asked Paul Hutter to temporarily lead this section of our organization,' Nicholson said yesterday.

Hutter, who currently is assistant general counsel for management and operations, will replace Duffy while the Senate considers Patrick Dunne's nomination, announced last week, to be assistant secretary. Hutter will not assume a new title, a VA spokesman said.

Dunne most recently served as president of the United States Naval Postgraduate School.

Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, said he supported the decisive actions Nicholson has taken so far.

'The bureaucracy has to get the message that in the 21st century, information moves at lightning speed and as a result, there must be systems in place to ensure that the data is extremely well protected,' he said. Craig expects more changes to come.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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