White House announces leadership picks for CISA and National Cyber Director role

The Biden administration on Monday said it has picked two National Security Agency veterans to serve in top cybersecurity leadership roles.

Chris Inglis will be nominated to serve as the country’s first National Cyber Director, and Jen Easterly will be tapped to run the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA. Both positions require Senate confirmation, which could take several months.

If confirmed, Inglis will set the agenda for a new congressionally mandated role that was recommended last year by the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, a bipartisan intergovernmental body that scrutinized how cybersecurity is handled by the federal government. The position is meant to advise the president on cybersecurity matters and coordinate the federal government’s work on cybersecurity. The Trump administration, which controversially eliminated a White House cyber czar role, opposed the creation of the position.

Inglis spent nearly three decades at the NSA, and retired in 2014 after serving eight years as its deputy director. He currently serves as a distinguished visiting professor at the United States Naval Academy, according to its website.

Easterly, if confirmed, will take over for CISA acting director Brandon Wales, who has been filling in for the role since late last year, when CISA’s first director Chris Krebs was fired for his comments about the security of the 2020 presidential election. As CISA director, Easterly will be focused on defending federal networks and critical infrastructure. Lawmakers have also discussed elevating the role of the agency following high-profile attacks that compromised government networks.

Easterly has served in a number of offensive and defensive roles at the NSA, Cyber Command, and other intelligence agencies. Her most recent role in government was on the National Security Council, where she served as a special assistant to the president with a focus on counterterrorism issues. She has worked at Morgan Stanley for the last four years leading its cybersecurity “Fusion Center.”

The nominations come as the White House continues to deal with the fallout from the SolarWinds attack linked to Russia. Easterly and Inglis will likely play key roles in setting up defenses to prevent similar attacks from wreaking havoc in the future, and may be involved in the continuing investigation and response to the incident. CISA, as well as several other federal agencies including the Department of Justice and the Pentagon, were impacted by the breach.

Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger, who also spent many years at the NSA, said in a statement that she looks forward to working with Inglis and Easterly to modernize cyber defenses and enhance the country’s ability to prevent and respond to incidents. “We will work closely with cybersecurity leaders across the United States Government, the private sector, Congress, and dedicated frontline cyber responders to keep our networks safe and secure,” she said.

The Washington Post, which first reported about the planned nominations on Sunday, said the Biden administration is also expected to nominate Robert Silvers, who served in a top DHS cybersecurity role in the Obama administration, as undersecretary for policy at the department.

Adam Janofsky

Adam Janofsky is the founding editor-in-chief of The Record by Recorded Future. He previously was the cybersecurity and privacy reporter for Protocol, and prior to that covered cybersecurity, AI, and other emerging technology for The Wall Street Journal.

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