President Biden will also nominate Jen Easterly, a former NSA intelligence officer who helped stand up U.S. Cyber Command more than a decade ago, to head the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, according to White House officials.
Both nominees, who are highly regarded in cyber policy circles, are expected to face smooth confirmations.
“If confirmed, Chris and Jen will add deep expertise, experience and leadership to our world-class cyber team,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement.
He noted the team already includes Deputy National Security Adviser for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger, herself a former senior NSA official.
“We are determined to protect America’s networks and to meet the growing challenge posed by our adversaries in cyberspace,” Sullivan said. “And this is the team to do it.’’
The moves come as the administration is grappling with the response to two major cyber events — one a Russian cyberespionage campaign known as SolarWinds that compromised nine federal agencies and about 100 private companies, and the other a Chinese hack of Microsoft Exchange servers that hit the private sector.
As national cyber director, Inglis will coordinate the defense of civilian agencies and review agencies’ cyber budgets. But because the position is outside the National Security Council, he will not oversee offensive cyber policy conducted by military and intelligence agencies. He likely will, however, have visibility into such operations as adversary blowback can challenge network defenses.
“I am absolutely thrilled with the appointment of Chris Inglis as the first national cyber director,” said Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), who co-authored the law that created the job. “He has a mastery of the cybersecurity challenges our nation faces unlike anyone I’ve ever met. He will serve the president and the nation well in strengthening our cybersecurity posture.”
Inglis and Langevin are members of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, a bipartisan body set up in 2019 by Congress to craft a federal government strategy for defending the nation’s critical infrastructure and democratic institutions against significant cyber attacks. Both worked on the commission recommendation to create the national cyber director position.
The Biden administration early on created the position held by Neuberger, a job within the NSC that is not subject to Senate confirmation. Neuberger is a respected practitioner who has been coordinating the response to SolarWinds and Microsoft Exchange.
There has been debate about the division of labor between the two roles, and whether the arrangement would set up competing power centers. But Neuberger and Inglis, who worked closely together at the NSA under its then-director, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, are expected to collaborate well, said Dmitri Alperovitch, chairman of Silverado Policy Accelerator.
Inglis served for 28 years at the NSA, retiring in 2014 after almost eight years as deputy director. In the years since he has taught at the U.S. Naval Academy and has been on the boards of FedEx and Huntington Bancshares, which has given insight into cyber issues in the private sector.
Neuberger joined the NSA in 2009, holding a variety of roles, including building partnerships between the agency and the private sector. Before moving to the White House in January, she led the NSA’s cybersecurity directorate.
Christopher Krebs, who as head of CISA in the Trump administration worked to secure the 2018 midterm and 2020 presidential elections, in a tweet Sunday called all three picks “brilliant.”
Easterly, a managing director at Morgan Stanley and global head of the firm’s cybersecurity fusion center, was one of the “Four Horsemen” — a quartet of military officers asked by Alexander to make the case to create Cyber Command. One of the other four, then-Col. Paul Nakasone, is now a four-star general heading both Cyber Command and the NSA.
Easterly, like Neuberger, is close to Nakasone. She served on the Biden transition team handling cyber policy issues.
The White House will also nominate Robert Silvers, who served as DHS assistant secretary for cyber policy in the Obama administration, as undersecretary for strategy, policy and plans at DHS. He, too, is expected to be easily confirmed.
Silvers is expected to focus heavily on cybersecurity but also on ensuring that the United States can compete with strategic adversaries such as China, and on domestic terrorism and other priorities.
The confirmation process could take up to two months, former officials said.