John Plumb, Department of Defense
John Plumb — the assistant secretary of Defense for space policy and also a top Pentagon cybersecurity adviser — testifies before a House Armed Services subcommittee on March 30, 2023.

Nominee for new Pentagon cyber leader not expected until later this year

The Pentagon won't nominate someone to fill a new, congressionally mandated cyber adviser post until near the end of 2023, a senior defense official said Thursday.

The Record reported on Wednesday that the Defense Department was hiring the RAND Corporation to examine how to establish a new assistant secretary of Defense for cyber policy, which was created in last year’s bipartisan defense policy bill.

Lawmakers want the position — sooner rather than later — in order to raise the importance of the cyber mission throughout the department and to be able to have a single, senior civilian official accountable for it.

John Plumb, who serves as the assistant secretary for space policy and also fills the office of the Principal Cyber Advisor to the Secretary of Defense, testified that the work is “on contract,” and Congress should not expect to receive a nominee until after the report is finished.

“We are trying to make sure that we create ESD cyber in the deliberate manner that has the most positive effect,” he told the House Armed Services Committee’s cyber panel, noting the department was using the template that created his post just a few years ago.

The examination will consider “what's the proper structure? Are there different pieces required? What things should be in this cyber ASD-ship? We're looking at components of electronic warfare components, of information warfare” that might be folded into the new office.

The study “should be done around September, but we are moving forward on it. We just want to do it right.”

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), the subcommittee’s chair, replied, “So the earliest time in which we'd see a nominee would be after the report in September?”

“To be totally fair, that is above my paygrade, but that's what I would anticipate,” Plumb answered.

“That's disappointing,” Gallagher stated.

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Martin Matishak

Martin Matishak

is the senior cybersecurity reporter for The Record. Prior to joining Recorded Future News in 2021, he spent more than five years at Politico, where he covered digital and national security developments across Capitol Hill, the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community. He previously was a reporter at The Hill, National Journal Group and Inside Washington Publishers.