Aug 16, 2022 - Technology

The White House's newest cyber official makes his case

National Cyber Director Chris Inglis speaks at a Council on Foreign Relations event

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

One year into his tenure, national cyber director Chris Inglis tells Axios his office — now nearly fully staffed — is ready to tackle its first big job.

Driving the news: The Office of the National Cyber Director (ONCD) plans to release the administration's national cybersecurity strategy next month after the White House charged the office in late June with leading its development. The strategy will define the nation's plans to prevent major cyberattacks and responses to them when they occur.

  • Industry officials tell Axios they hope the strategy clearly defines what responsibilities the ONCD will have and differentiates the office from its counterparts at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Security Council (NSC).
  • This could signal that the NSC, which has historically handled all cyber policy matters for the White House, is ready to hand off some of its duties, former NSC official Mark Montgomery tells Axios.

The big picture: It's taken most of the year for Inglis' office to get off the ground, but now that the team is nearly staffed up, the ONCD could start to play a more clearly defined and prominent role in federal cyber discussions.

  • ONCD didn't receive congressional funding until November, and the office didn’t start hiring in earnest until February, Inglis tells Axios. Now that they're close to 60 full-time staff members, the office is starting to take on more responsibilities.
  • During its first year, the ONCD laid the groundwork for what some of its priorities will be, serving as a key participant in White House forums on cybersecurity workforce issues, health industry cyber needs and open-source software security woes.

Details: To create a solid foundation for the ONCD, Inglis has focused on collaborating with other federal agencies, as well as hiring well-known government and industry officials as leaders.

  • Inglis named Kemba Walden, a former Microsoft executive and Department of Homeland Security official, as his second-in-command in May. Other high-profile hires came from Google and the CIA.
  • Inglis tapped federal chief information security officer Chris DeRusha as a deputy national cyber director — establishing a "dual-hat" role between the Office of Management and Budget and ONCD.

What they’re saying: "We don’t get a passing grade, in terms of our scorecard, if we simply stand up the office," Inglis says. "What we have to do is add true value to the system."

  • "The least visible part of the human body is the connective tissue," Walden tells Axios. "That's how I envision us in the cyber ecosystem: We're that connective tissue that makes it all make sense."

What’s next: Inglis tells Axios his office is "working our way through" creating the administration's first national cybersecurity strategy. The office has collected feedback on it from 30 federal offices and more than 60 private-sector organizations.

  • The office is also in the "early stages" of developing a cyber workforce strategy.

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