President Joe Biden on Monday announced his intent to nominate six key leaders for the Department of Homeland Security, including Jen Easterly, a military, government and industry veteran with a strong background in cybersecurity and counter-terrorism to lead the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).
Easterly is currently head of Firm Resilience and the Fusion Resilience Center at the investment banking company Morgan Stanley [MS], and an Army veteran who worked in intelligence and cyber operations and stood up the Army’s first cyber battalion and helped design and create U.S. Cyber Command. She also led cyber policy for Biden’s transition team.
At Morgan Stanley since 2017, Easterly built, and leads, the firm’s Cybersecurity Fusion Center.
“Put simply, we protect and defense the firm and its clients from a range of cyber threat actors, from nation-states to cybercriminals to hacktivists to insiders,” she says on Morgan Stanley’s website. “We’re a global enterprise with centers around the world to enable us to respond to threats twenty-four-seven and to ensure resiliency in the face of an increasingly complex and dynamic cyber threat environment.”
Previous media reports had suggested that Biden’s pick to lead CISA would be Robert Silvers, who the president instead plans to nominate to be Under Secretary for Strategy, Policy, and Plans at the department. Silvers was DHS assistant secretary for Cyber Policy during the Obama administration.
Easterly, a graduate of West Point and Oxford, spent 20 years in the Army and had various cyber and intelligence roles with the National Security Agency and Army Intelligence and Security Command. During a second stint at NSA between 2010 and 2013, she was a cyber advisor based in Kabul, Afghanistan for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and later served as deputy director for Counterterrorism, according to her LinkedIn profile. ISAF was the NATO-led military mission in Afghanistan.
During the first three years of the Obama administration, Easterly served in the White House as special assistant to the president and senior director for Counterterrorism before leaving for Morgan Stanley.
Brandon Wales is currently the acting director of CISA. Prior to being named as the acting head of CISA last November, Wales served as the agency’s first executive director, a senior career position responsible for executing the director’s vision for the agency.
If confirmed, Easterly will lead a component of DHS that is increasingly in the spotlight. The agency is seen as the key enabler for election security and protecting federal civilian networks, and is the primary contact between the federal government and the private sector on cybersecurity and infrastructure issues.
Biden also plans to nominate John Tien to be deputy secretary of DHS, a position currently held in an acting capacity by David Pekoske, who is the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration.
Tien, also an Army veteran, served in the White House for two years at the outset of the Obama administration on the National Security Council as senior director of Afghanistan and Pakistan. After leaving the White House in 2011, Tien has been a managing director of the investment bank Citigroup [C], in charge of the bank’s retail services line.
During the Bush administration, while serving in the Army, Tien also worked in the White House as an NSC Director for Iraq. During the Clinton administration, he was a White House fellow in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
The deputy director at DHS typically works like a corporate chief operating officer, carrying out the day-to-day management and oversight of the organization.
Like Easterly, Tien is also a West Point graduate and has a degree from Oxford. He was the first Asian American to serve as West Point’s First Captain and Brigade Commander, the military academy’s top ranked cadet position.
Chris Magnus, the police chief in Tucson, Ariz., was named to be the nominee to lead Customs and Border Protection, which has two primary divisions, the Border Patrol, which patrols between the nations land ports of entry, and the Office of Field Operations, which guards the land, air and sea ports of entry. CBP also has an Office of Air and Marine Operations with a significant air force that patrols the maritime and border domains.
Magnus has led the Tucson police department since 2016. The city has more than a half-million residents. Before assuming his current job, he was the police chief of Richmond, Calif. in the San Francisco Bay area.
In announcing the DHS nominees, the White House said that in all of his prior roles in public safety and policing, “Magnus developed a reputation as a progressive police leader who focused on relationship-building between the policy and community, implementing evidence-based best practices, promoting reform, and insisting on police accountability.” It also said that based on his experiences in Arizona, which is a border state, Magnus “has extensive experience in addressing immigration issues.”
Silvers, the nominee to lead DHS policy, is a partner at the law firm Paul Hastings LLP. Before overseeing cyber policy at the department during the Obama administration, he served as the DHS deputy chief of staff. He is also an adjunct professor in the M.S. in Cybersecurity Risk and Strategy Program offered jointly by the New York University Law School and NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering.
Other Biden DHS nominees include Jonathan Meyer to be general counsel and Ur Jaddou to be director of U.C. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Meyer is a partner at the law firm Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton in Washington D.C. Previously, he was deputy general counsel and senior counselor at DHS, and has served as deputy assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice, special deputy General Counsel of Amtrak, and counsel to Biden when he was on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Jaddou, in immigration rights advocate, led Biden’s DHS transition team. She was the chief counsel of USCIS during the last three years of the Obama administration.
Jaddou is the director of DHS Watch, which advocates for immigrants’ rights. She is also an adjunct professor at the American University School of Law.