Inside Cybersecurity

January 27, 2023

Daily News

Lawmakers praise Biden nominees Inglis and Easterly for cyber expertise, leadership

By Sara Friedman / April 13, 2021

The nominations of Chris Inglis for National Cyber Director and Jen Easterly to lead CISA are generating positive reactions from lawmakers, who are eager to see President Biden’s team fully fleshed out as the administration works to bolster the government’s commitment to cybersecurity initiatives and partnerships.

The four congressional members of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission praised the Biden administration’s decision to hire Inglis, a former National Security Agency deputy director and member of the commission. The lawmakers are Solarium Commission co-chairs Sen. Angus King (I-ME) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and commission members Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE).

“We are pleased that President Biden has nominated our fellow Solarium Commissioner Chris Inglis to be the country’s first National Cyber Director. Creating the National Cyber Director was a key recommendation of the Commission, because we need a Senate-confirmed official within the White House to coordinate our cyber defenses,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement Monday.

They said, “As our adversaries’ attempts to probe our networks become bolder, the need for a leader with statutory authority to coordinate the development and implementation of a national cyber strategy to defend and secure everything from our hospitals to our power grid could not be more clear.”

On the Inglis nomination, the lawmakers said, “Chris was instrumental in crafting the National Cyber Director recommendation. His wealth of experience in the highest ranks of government cyber operations and policy making ensured that our proposal was grounded in the reality of today. But Chris’s greatest contribution was his clarity of vision for a future of stability and security in cyberspace, one where the public and private sectors work side-by-side in this critical area. The job will be tough, but there is no one more qualified than Chris. He has our warmest congratulations, and we look forward to offering him our full support as his nomination progresses.”

Langevin said Inglis “is the right person at the right time” to become the first National Cyber Director.

Langevin told Inside Cybersecurity, “With his background and skill set, [Inglis] will serve the nation well and will do great things. I have high confidence that he will do great things to better protect the country in cyberspace in making sure we have a much more effective cyber defensive posture in place.”

Easterly’s nomination for director of CISA was also met with support. Easterly was special assistant to the president and senior director for counterterrorism under President Obama and previously worked at the NSA as deputy director for counterterrorism.

“We also congratulate Jen Easterly on her nomination to lead CISA, the nation’s premiere cybersecurity agency,” the four Solarium lawmakers said. “Jen provided valuable feedback throughout the Solarium Commission’s strategy development sessions as one of our ‘red team’ members. Her incisive mind and tenacity will be great assets to CISA as it continues to mature. Strengthening CISA is an essential part of the Solarium strategy, and Jen is just that -- a strong pick.”

In addition to Biden’s cyber picks, the president on Monday announced his intent to nominate Rob Silvers for DHS under secretary for strategy, policy and plans. Silvers was assistant secretary for cyber policy at DHS under President Obama.

House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) said, “As the nation continues to face unprecedented cybersecurity challenges, I am pleased President Biden has nominated key cybersecurity positions today. All three nominees have serious experience in cybersecurity and will have the ability to get things done. Together, these nominations make an important statement about how seriously this administration is taking cybersecurity.”

Thompson said, “After the previous administration’s efforts to bolster our cybersecurity posture were marred by a lack of steady, consistent White House leadership, the enormity of the task facing the current Administration cannot be overstated. I am confident the nominees named today have the smarts, grit, and relationships necessary to defend Federal and critical infrastructure networks from sophisticated cyber attacks. I encourage the Senate to act swiftly in confirming these nominees so they can quickly get to work ensuring our country remains resilient and secure. I look forward to working with them.”

Senate Intelligence Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) said, “I’m glad to see the administration using these appointments to signal that cybersecurity will be a top priority. Having experienced cyber leadership for the U.S. government is particularly important as we grapple with the consequences of the SolarWinds breach.”

A Senate Homeland Security aide said, “Filling these roles and ensuring these critical federal agencies have qualified, Senate-confirmed leadership continues to be a priority for our committee. Chairman [Gary] Peters [D-MI] looks forward to moving quickly to review these nominees’ qualifications and advance them through the confirmation process so we can have qualified, Senate-confirmed leaders in place as soon as practicable.”

Senate Homeland Security ranking member Robert Portman (R-OH) said, “As a former cabinet official I believe that every nominee deserves a fair process and I look forward to reviewing the National Cyber Director and CISA Director nominees based on their merits.”

The four Solarium lawmakers said, “Chris and Jen will join an already strong team that includes Deputy National Security Adviser for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger and CISA’s Executive Assistant Director for Cybersecurity Eric Goldstein. Anne and Eric inherited one of the most wide-ranging cyber incidents in U.S. history, and we have all been impressed by their early work to get a handle on SolarWinds and the more recent Microsoft Exchange Server vulnerabilities.”

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas weighed in on the nominations of Easterly, Silvers and several other nominees for key DHS positions.

“I am excited that President Biden has nominated an extraordinary group of individuals for critical leadership positions in the Department of Homeland Security,” Mayorkas said. “They are highly regarded and accomplished professionals with deep experience in their respective fields. Together they will help advance the Department of Homeland Security’s mission to ensure the safety and security of the American people. I look forward to working with the Senate in support of their swift confirmation.”

Industry responds

Biden’s picks for NCD, CISA and DHS have generated strong expressions of support from industry and other cybersecurity stakeholders.

Norma Krayem of Van Scoyoc Associates called all three leaders “a terrific group of nominees,” and said they will provide a “strong balance between civilian and IC backgrounds, DHS and CISA have critical roles in dealing with the private sector.”

Krayem said, “Together, they make a phenomenal team, bring in-depth knowledge, have served their country with great distinction, many times over, and bring a unique understanding of Critical Infrastructure -- they will quickly bring structure to the cyber landscape and clarify ‘who is on first’ on cybersecurity.”

Former Federal CISO Grant Schneider said, “I am very excited the Biden Administration is moving forward with nominations for these important cybersecurity leadership roles. Given that the government continues to respond to the SolarWinds and Hafnium activity, it is critical that these positions be filled. This adds two more experienced cybersecurity professionals in senior positions in DHS.”

Schneider said, “Once confirmed by the Senate, the President will have a roster of key leaders in place to drive the government’s approach to cybersecurity forward. The important aspect will be how these individuals, and those in current cyber roles, work as a team to develop and implement cyber policies which enhance the security of the nation.”

Allison Bender of Wilson Sonsini said Silvers’ prior experience working with Mayorkas at DHS will be useful under the Biden administration.

“Rob’s practical, thoughtful, and great at execution. As the Biden Administration grapples with cybersecurity policy, Rob will be a key player in those discussions,” Bender said.

Bender said, “Chris Inglis has incredible depth on cyber issues after decades of service and is well-regarded in the interagency. He’s an excellent choice to serve as National Cyber Director.”

Contracting attorney Robert Metzger said, “It is encouraging that the Biden Administration has chosen such an experienced, well-respected leadership team. The appointment of Chris Inglis is especially significant. As a nation, we are in a difficult time where near-peer adversaries have shown unexpected and very troubling capabilities at cyber and supply chain penetration.”

Metzger, who leads Rogers Joseph O’Donnell’s cyber practice, said, “It is essential that we have clear vision, competence and experience to set new national cyber strategy, to close gaps between civilian and military capabilities, to improve protection of critical infrastructure and our commercial industries, and to greatly improve threat detection and response.”

Mark Montgomery, a senior advisor on the Solarium Commission, said Easterly’s experience at NSA and U.S. Cyber Command will be useful in determining next steps for CISA. The fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act orders CISA to conduct a force structure assessment of its capabilities.

“Based on her experience building up Cyber Comm, she has the perfect skillsets to analyze the mission sets, the manpower and the resources that CISA has and to determine what more do they need in terms of people, technology infrastructure and to prioritize it across the mission set so they can do the important thing first,” Montgomery said.

USTelecom president and CEO Jonathan Spalter called all three nominees “battle-tested policy professionals who know all too well the range of cyber and homeland security threats to our physical and digital infrastructure from countries far from friendly to our national interest.”

Spalter said, “With their connection to the intelligence community and deep understanding of America’s global cyber posture, these appointments are a clear signal from the Biden administration that the U.S. government -- at the very highest level -- plans to reinvigorate global cyber engagement, collaborate with like-minded allies and work with industry partners to combat 21st century national security threats.” -- Sara Friedman (sfriedman@iwpnews.com)