Jun 6, 2023 - Technology

White House quiet on national cyber director choice, senator says

Image of Sen. Angus King during a congressional hearing

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) during a hearing on Capitol Hill in April 2022. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The White House has not shared much of anything with lawmakers about who the administration thinks should be the next national cyber director, a top cyber-minded senator told Axios.

Why it matters: It's been nearly four months since Chris Inglis stepped down as the first national cyber director inside the White House, and lawmakers and policy experts have been putting pressure on President Joe Biden in recent weeks to name a replacement.

Driving the news: Last month, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) sent a letter to Biden questioning the delay in picking a nominee and encouraging the president to nominate current acting director Kemba Walden to the post.

  • Yet in the three weeks since the lawmakers sent their letter, they haven't heard anything from the White House, King told Axios in a recent interview.

What they're saying: "I'm really puzzled; I just don't know what's going on," King told Axios. "This is an important job, and it's an important moment and they have a highly qualified, able acting director."

The big picture: Congress created the Office of the National Cyber Director (ONCD) as the Biden administration was taking office in early 2021.

Between the lines: King, who co-wrote the legislation establishing the office, said the lack of a nominee indicates that there must be some internal pushback about the position.

  • "The lack of an appointment itself indicates that there's some reluctance, when there's an obvious nominee waiting in the wing," King said. "I'm not going to speculate on what the cause is, but all I'm going to say is that it's a dangerous lapse, and it's resolvable."
  • The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

The intrigue: Walden has received a number of high-profile endorsements in the last month, including from King and Gallagher, as well as from former director Inglis.

  • Walden, who first joined the office last year as the principal deputy national cyber director, has also been overseeing the implementation of the Biden administration's first national cyber strategy.

Yes, but: The Biden administration has been laser-focused on preventing a debt ceiling crisis, which may have slowed down ONCD nominee considerations.

Sign up for Axios’ cybersecurity newsletter Codebook here.

Go deeper