The Biden administration should act swiftly to nominate a new National Cyber Director before the end of July or risk delaying the implementation of the National Cybersecurity Strategy, according to a joint letter that cybersecurity groups sent the White House on Wednesday.
The letter by the Cybersecurity Coalition, BSA | The Software Alliance, Information Technology Industry Council, Center for Cybersecurity Policy and Law and the Better Identity Coalition is asking the administration to select a nominee before the Congress enters the August recess.
“We the undersigned organizations respectfully urge President Biden to nominate a National Cyber Director (NCD) before the end of July considering the ever-changing and increasingly complex cyber landscape. Swift action is crucial in filling this role to protect our nation against ongoing threats and effectively tackle the challenges that lie ahead of us,” the groups wrote to Jeff Zients, White House chief of staff.
The call from industry groups joins a growing chorus of voices urging the administration to pick the next director, particularly as the former head of the Office of the National Cyber Director, Chris Inglis, resigned in February, shortly before the release of National Cybersecurity Strategy. Policymakers, industry leaders and many others who work in cybersecurity are now waiting for the implementation plan for the strategy.
“We are concerned that the delay in nominating a candidate for the National Cyber Director role could impede the great work accomplished under Director Inglis and Acting Director Walden, hinder the implementation of the National Cyber Strategy, and jeopardize the effectiveness of ONCD,” they wrote.
“The nomination of this position presents a critical opportunity for the Administration to cement the significance of this office. Therefore, we urge you to promptly send a nomination to the Senate, and advocate for an expedited confirmation process to avoid the inevitable delays in nominations as an election nears,” they said.
Ari Schwartz, coordinator of the Cybersecurity Coalition and managing director of cybersecurity services at Venable, noted that the chances of a nominee making it through the Senate decreases after the August recess. “Now we’ve got less than three weeks left and we still haven’t seen someone named,” Schwartz said. “If the president doesn’t nominate someone, it’s going to have an impact.”
The group also “strongly recommended” that Biden issue an executive order clarifying positions and responsibilities of multiple cybersecurity-oriented roles such as the ONCD, National Security Council, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Office of Management and Budget, National Institute for Standards and Technology, and any other relevant entities.
“Congress’s decision to make this a Senate-confirmed position has created potential overlaps, making such a clarification necessary. However, the way these issues are handled will define the Biden Administration’s lasting impact on cybersecurity policy and can demonstrate a comprehensive whole-of-government cybersecurity approach,” the letter states.
Just over two months ago, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., called for the administration to nominate Kemba Walden, acting National Cyber Director. The two co-chairs of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, which created the position, similarly warned that the lack of a nominee could hinder the implementation process and a ” lessening of the stature of the office.”
Former Democratic Congressman from Rhode Island Jim Langevin, also an ex-commissioner of the Solarium Commission, has expressed support for Walden’s nomination as cyber director. “I believe it’s long-time passed that she be nominated as permanent NCD by President Biden and confirmed by the Senate,” Langevin said at a event last month.
The White House did not respond to request for comment on any plans to nominate a director.