John Inglis, Biden’s cyber director nominee, unsure whether the government’s cyber strategy works

The election of President Biden for America’s first national cyber director is not sure that the federal government has a unifying cyber strategy.

John C. Inglis, the nominee for the new job, told senators Thursday that if confirmed, their first question would be whether the government’s cyber structure works.

“We have some deep and sharp strengths, we have strength in places like [Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency], the FBI, national intelligence agencies and [General Services Administration], but it is not entirely clear that they are coherent; that we have achieved unity of purpose; that they all operate according to a single strategy that would connect that diversity so that it becomes a strength, “Inglis said at a Senate confirmation hearing. “I think we can and should be greater than the sum of our parts, I’m not sure we’re there yet.”

Inglis testified alongside Jen Easterly on the choice of Biden to head the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Together, they would be tasked with developing a national cyber strategy amid a plague of cyberattacks hitting critical infrastructure and hackers corrupting federal networks. Mr. Inglis and Ms. Easterly previously served with the National Security Agency.

Precisely what Mr Inglis and Mrs Easterly will do if confirmed is still up for debate. Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine who is part of the Democrats, told his colleagues that the nominees would monitor the conflict in the cyber domain wherever it arises: on Wall Street, in a pipeline company or in a utility service company. water anywhere in the United States.

Mr. King introduced Mr. Inglis to the Senate Committee on Government Affairs and National Security and urged lawmakers to “reimagine the conflict.”

“The United States is under attack, we are under attack today, and this is one of the most serious conflicts, one of the most serious challenges that this country has faced in the post-World War II period,” King said. “The two positions that we are really talking about today are the equivalent of the Secretary of Defense and the Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. These are people who will be in charge of defending this country in what is a serious and ongoing conflict ”.

The nominees opted for more benign descriptions, with Mrs. Easterly introducing herself as quarterback and Mr. Inglis as their head coach. Mr. Inglis said he would oversee budgets, policies and planning, while Mrs. Easterly said he would focus on getting CISA the staff, authority and budget it needed to ensure the agency had the capacity to protect to the federal government.

Upon arrival, new federal cyber officials will find increasing amounts of taxpayer cash at their disposal. As cyber attacks and hacks affecting the country and the government have multiplied, so has taxpayer spending on cybersecurity. CISA received $ 650 million as part of a COVID-19 relief package approved earlier this year, and a bipartisan duo of Representatives Jim Langevin, Democrat of Rhode Island and Mike Gallagher, Republican of Wisconsin, have pushed for CISA to receive $ 400 million more immediately. .

The installation of Mr. Inglis and Ms. Easterly in top cyber positions in the federal government would also serve as a triumph for the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, which has pursued the revision of national cyber policy in a manner inspired by the secret study of the Solarium project of the Eisenhower administration that considered options to confront the Soviet Union in the Cold War.

Mr. King and Mr. Gallagher co-chaired the commission, while Mr. Inglis served as commissioner and Ms. Easterly served on the commission’s “red team” that provided input on developing a cyber deterrence strategy. . Mr. King and Mr. Gallagher responded for the nominations of Mr. Inglis and Ms. Easterly.

Congress created the commission in a 2018 defense bill, and the commission claims to have codified 25 of its recommendations into law. The commission succeeded in getting the federal government to adopt all of its recommendations for the Department of Defense, but was less successful in other federal agencies, said Mark Montgomery, executive director of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, in the Steptoe & Johnson Cyberlaw Podcast published in April.

Montgomery said the commission officially ends on December 31, 2021, but the presence of Inglis and Easterly in government can help ensure that the remaining agenda of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission exceeds that deadline.

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