May 17, 2023 | The Cipher Brief

The President Must Move Swiftly to Nominate New National Cyber Director

May 17, 2023 | The Cipher Brief

The President Must Move Swiftly to Nominate New National Cyber Director

The Office of the National Cyber Director successfully led the development of the new National Cybersecurity Strategy. Now, the office is missing a key ingredient for implementing the strategy’s numerous tasks – a Senate-confirmed director.

Luckily, there is a straightforward solution to this problem: the president should nominate acting Director Kemba Walden who has already proven herself to be a well-qualified, highly capable leader.

The congressionally-mandated Cyberspace Solarium Commission (on which we both served) recommended establishing a national cyber director in its original March 2020 report to institutionalize a national-level mechanism for coordinating cybersecurity issues. Congress agreed and established the Office of the National Cyber Director in the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act. Since then, the office drafted and released the National Cybersecurity Strategy, which reflects the legacy of the inaugural director, Chris Inglis, who retired in February.

Since Chris’s departure, there has been a three-month delay (and counting) in nominating a candidate to replace him. Not only will this hinder the implementation of the strategy, but it will also lead to a lessening of the stature of the office Chris led in standing up.

Acting Director Walden, however, is an eminently qualified candidate with the necessary experience to lead the ONCD at such a critical time. As the first principal deputy national cyber director, she worked alongside Chris to build the office’s capacity to advise the president and coordinate across the interagency. She was also a key author of the National Cybersecurity Strategy.

From her time leading Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit in fighting against ransomware, she gained an appreciation for the unique role and capabilities of the private sector. From her experience at the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency, she had an important perspective on how the U.S. must bolster and protect our critical infrastructure. As a Cyber Safety Review Board member, she models the importance of collaborating between the government and the private sector.

We routinely engage with government and private sector leaders, and they also find Kemba an excellent choice for NCD—thoughtful, collaborative, and willing and able to do the hard work needed to help move the country toward a more secure future. Acting NCD Walden is a forward-thinking leader who can seamlessly step into this position today.

The new National Cybersecurity Strategy has been released, and now the hard part is to implement the strategy over the next two years. President Biden must maintain the momentum the administration has cultivated by setting up and resourcing the office. The White House should send her nomination to Congress, where she should receive fair consideration and swift nomination.

Dr. Ravich and Ms. Spaulding served as commissioners on the congressionally mandated Cyberspace Solarium Commission and continue to serve as distinguished advisors to CSC 2.0.