Senate Approves Chris Inglis as National Cyber DirectorMeanwhile, Jen Easterly's Nomination to Serve as CISA Director Is on Hold
The U.S. Senate on Thursday unanimously approved John "Chris" Inglis as national cyber director.
Inglis' confirmation comes at a time when the Biden administration is dealing with multiple cybersecurity issues, including a series of ransomware attacks that have targeted the nation's infrastructure as well as the continued fallout over the SolarWinds supply chain attack that led to follow-on attacks on 100 companies and nine federal agencies.
President Joe Biden brought up attacks on critical infrastructure and other cybersecurity issues during his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva on Wednesday (see: Analysis: The Cyber Impact of Biden/Putin Summit Meeting).
During his confirmation hearing this month, Inglis said that one of his top priorities would be to help define the role of the national cyber director position in the White House and to ensure that there is coordination among various agencies that have responsibility for cybersecurity, including the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the National Security Council.
Inglis also told lawmakers that part of his job would be to ensure that federal government agencies improve their cybersecurity, which includes strengthening networks and infrastructure and ensuring that security is built into applications that departments deploy.
"We must ensure that our technology is built and deployed with security foremost in mind, and that the supply chains that support them are free from security risk, and that our people are cyber literate, and that the roles, responsibilities and accountability are sufficiently well-defined, and that we remove the fissures and seams and cyber defenses that offer adversaries opportunities to find and exploit weaknesses," Inglis said.
As the national cyber director, Inglis will have oversight of the defense of federal networks and infrastructure as well as the cyber budgets of various agencies. The position, however, will not involve offensive cyber activities, which will remain with the National Security Council and U.S. Cyber Command.
As part of the Biden administration's 2022 budget proposal, the White House is asking Congress to approve $15 million to support the Office of the National Cyber Director within the White House (see: Biden Budget Seeks to Invest Billions in US Cybersecurity).
With his nomination approved, Inglis will now reestablish the cyber director role within the White House, which had been created by the Obama administration and then eliminated by former President Donald Trump in 2018.
After the Trump administration eliminated the director's role, lawmakers from both parties fought to recreate the position with greater authority and make the office subject to congressional oversight. Congress overcame Trump's veto in January to approve the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, which included numerous cybersecurity provisions, including reinstating the role of national cyber director at the White House (see: Defense Funding Measure Includes 77 Cybersecurity Provisions).
Inglis brings extensive cybersecurity and government experience to his new role.
A retired Air Force brigadier general, Inglis has more than 40 years of experience in the federal government, including 28 years at the U.S. National Security Agency, where he served as the senior civilian leader and deputy director under both the Bush and Obama administrations before stepping down in 2014. Most recently, he served as managing director for the Paladin Capital Group.
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who introduced Inglis during his confirmation hearing earlier this month, praised his appointment on Twitter on Thursday. The two served together on the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, which supported creating the national cyber director position.
"Chris is an intelligent and talented leader, who possesses both the experience and the disposition to lead a government-wide effort to strengthen our cybersecurity. After working alongside him on the @CyberSolarium for years, I truly believe he is the best person for the job," King wrote on Twitter.
Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., who also served on the commission, noted that restoring the cyber director's position has been long overdue.
After 11 long years, I'm thrilled the U.S. finally has a Senate-confirmed National Cyber Director in the White House.— Jim Langevin (@JimLangevin) June 17, 2021
Congratulations, Chris! You certainly will have your hands full, but there's no one better suited for this job than you.
America is rooting for you! https://t.co/wMoDfJNC4h
CISA Director Approval Held Up
While Inglis' nomination sailed through the Senate, approval of Biden's nominee for CISA director, Jen Easterly, is being held up over a dispute about U.S. southern border security.
On Thursday, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., put a hold on Easterly's appointment, demanding that Biden first visit the U.S.-Mexico border to address concerns over immigration, according to The Hill. Scott has also threatened to hold up other Department of Homeland Security nominees.
It is unclear when the Senate will again take up Easterly's nomination for approval.