New VA CIO orders formation of cybersecurity strategy team

The new Enterprise Cybersecurity Strategy Team has 45 days to deliver to Congress an integrated cybersecurity strategy for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

LaVerne Council was sworn in July 6 as the new assistant secretary for information and technology, and chief information officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs. (Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing screenshot)

In one of her first official actions since assuming the duties of chief information officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs on July 6, LaVerne Council has ordered the formation of an Enterprise Cybersecurity Strategy Team and tasked them to deliver a strategy to Congress by mid-September.

“We have an aggressive schedule and we are focused on delivering this strategy to Congress within the next 45 days,” Council wrote in a July 31 email obtained by FedScoop.

The ECST comprises leaders, subject matter experts and support staff from different parts of VA’s Office of Information and Technology. The team is led by Susan McHugh-Polley and work has already commenced, according to Council.


The team’s scope includes management of current projects, such as the Continuous Readiness in Information Security Program as well as development and review of VA’s cybersecurity requirements and operations holistically — from desktop to software to network protection. The ECST is also coordinating its efforts with the Department of Homeland Security, the Government Accountability Office and the VA’s Office of the Inspector General.

“The ECST team members are working with their colleagues and managers to determine who will address their normal daily responsibilities while they focus on the cyber security mission,” Council said. “Please offer your support. We can no longer perform in an environment where we do not have the proper controls, processes and management to ensure that our technology data and environment are as secure as possible.”

McHugh-Polley joined VA in 2014 as the executive director for field operations for service delivery and engineering, which directs all operational and maintenance activities associated with VA’s IT environment. Prior to joining VA, McHugh-Polley served as the director of the operations division for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Department of Homeland Security.

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