Ride the Lightning

Cybersecurity and Future of Law Practice Blog
by Sharon D. Nelson Esq., President of Sensei Enterprises, Inc.

Lawmakers to Biden: Nominate a Cyber Director Quickly!

May 16, 2023

The Washington Post reported (gift article) on May 12 that leaders of the independent commission behind the creation of the Office of the National Cyber Director are calling on President Biden to fill the vacancy of the office leadership post, which has been open for months.

The first national cyber director, Chris Inglis, left the post in February after indicating in December that he would depart. The acting director is Kemba Walden, who previously worked as assistant general counsel in Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit and counsel at DHS.

Today, the leaders of the congressionally established Cyberspace Solarium Commission, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), wrote to the president asking him to fill the position on a permanent basis — and to strongly consider Walden for the job.

“Since Chris Inglis’ departure and even prior, Acting NCD Kemba Walden has demonstrated that she is highly qualified for and well suited to the position,” the pair wrote. “We urge you to send her nomination to Congress soon, where we believe she will receive fair consideration and swift confirmation.”

I certainly agree that such an important position should be filled, to enhance the office’s power and signal the full backing of the administration. This also, according to Kind, would strengthen the ability of the office to “wrangle the federal agencies adequately” when coordinating cyber actions.

Under the legislation establishing the office, the national cyber director is charged with advising the president on cybersecurity policy and strategy. It replaced a White House “cyber czar” position that former president Donald Trump eliminated.

The letter came one day after a news report that another top cyber leader, Cyber Command and National Security Agency Director Gen. Paul Nakasone, might soon step down.

“The coordination across the federal government is of the size and scope that demands the leadership of a Senate-confirmed NCD,” King and Gallagher wrote. “While we applaud the White House’s efforts under Director Inglis to stand up the office and his strong leadership in drafting the National Cybersecurity Strategy, we are extremely concerned that the three-month delay (and counting) in nominating a candidate to replace Chris will hinder the implementation of the strategy and lead to a lessening of the stature of the office.”

King said he has “prodded the White House publicly and privately” but has gotten no answer about the reason for the national cyber director position still being open. Neither the White House nor the Office of the National Cyber Director responded to requests for comment on the vacancy.

Even after a nomination, there would be some time before Inglis’s replacement took over full-time. The administration nominated him in April of 2021 and he took office two months later. The Senate would have to confirm his successor; Inglis was unanimously confirmed.

King said that the two vacancies combined could pose a problem. “If you add Nakasone to an empty national cyber director, it’s a big gap,” he said.

Yup, and not a good time to have two major federal cybersecurity positions open. Who’s minding the national interest?

Sharon D. Nelson, Esq., President, Sensei Enterprises, Inc.
3975 University Drive, Suite 225, Fairfax, VA 22030
Email:  Phone: 703-359-0700
Digital Forensics/Cybersecurity/Information Technology