President Biden’s commitment to federal digital transformation continues with the nomination of two National Security Agency veterans for key roles in the government’s cybersecurity administration. Jen Easterly, a former deputy director for counterterrorism at the NSA, is expected to fill the role of Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency while Chris Inglis, former NSA deputy director, is to be the first ever National Cyber Director nominee. The nominations will come in the wake of disclosed cyberattacks suspected to be the work of U.S. rivals Russia and China. The two experienced former government security officials would fill important positions overseeing the fortification of the government’s vulnerable cyber infrastructure, including voting systems.
Easterly, who also served in the Obama administration as a special assistant to the President, is also a military veteran with experience as a U.S. Army Intelligence officer, giving her deeper insight than many civilian experts. However, she also boasts experience in the finance sector, serving as the global head of Morgan Stanley’s cybersecurity fusion center—the firm’s cyber threat assessment and preparation division. She is also a visiting fellow at the National Security Institute think tank and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, making her a multi-faceted nominee with years of hard-earned expertise. As CISA Director, Easterly will be tasked with the oversight of both digital infrastructure stability and election security.
On the other hand, Chris Inglis is slated to serve as the first National Cyber Director, a vaguely defined position that would coordinate cybersecurity efforts between President Biden’s national security advisor and the U.S. military. The former deputy director of the NSA brings over 40 years of federal experience to the role, including 28 years with the intelligence agency, making him the ideal candidate for the new role. He has been a vocal critic of the federal government’s sluggish and disorganized digital defense strategies, proposing a “defend forward” approach that is more proactive against foreign intrusion. The national cyber director position was created by a bipartisan Congressional commission as part of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act in an effort to more boldly respond to attacks by China and Russia.
The Biden Administration remains committed to bolstering federal cybersecurity and the entire government IT infrastructure, with the President citing it as a priority of national security. The hardline approach comes after China was suspected in a recent attack against a vulnerable Microsoft email program, on top of Russia’s 2020 SolarWinds strike. Experts on both sides of the political spectrum are supportive of the nominations of Easterly and Inglis, who have worked closely together in the federal cyber intelligence arena. Only time will tell if the President’s emphasis on infrastructure, both physical and digital, will protect America’s digital ecosystem before the next foreign cyber-offensive.