The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday approved by unanimous voice vote to advance the nominations of two Biden administration cyber nominees to consideration by the full Senate.
The nominations of Chris Inglis to be the first National Cyber Director (NCD) and Jen Easterly to be director of the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) have strong bipartisan support.
However, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), said he would put a hold on Easterly’s nomination until President Joe Biden visits the U.S. southwest border and address the migrant “crisis” there. The hold essentially means that the Senate can’t confirm a nominee by unanimous consent but can still approve the nomination through a vote.
Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), said that Biden has probably visited the border more than anybody on the committee, citing the president’s prior service as vice president under Barack Obama and before that as a U.S. senator.
The creation of the NCD position, a new role within the Executive Office of the President, was authorized in the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act and follows a recommendation by the bipartisan Cyberspace Solarium Commission in 2020 to create the role to be the “president’s principal advisor for cybersecurity and associated emerging technology issues, the lead for national-level coordination for cyber strategy, policy, and defensive cyber operations; and the chief U.S. representative and spokesperson on cybersecurity issues.”
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), ranking member on the committee, is concerned that there may be a lack of clarity in the roles and responsibilities among the top federal cybersecurity positions, including the NCD, the director of CISA, the deputy national security advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology on the White House National Security Council, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Department of Defense.
“My view is you know we need to figure out who’s really in charge and be sure that each of these responsibilities is carefully delineate, including the national security advisor deputy, who is also involved, and OMB, who are also involved, and of course the DoD, who are also involved,” Portman said following the vote. He also said he wants to do a “whiteboard exercise” to sort out the roles and responsibilities of these agencies and individuals and to also best work with the private sector.
Portman also said the reason for the voice vote by the committee was that “there’s a lot of appreciation for the public service” the nominees have already completed combined with their expertise.
Inglis is a former deputy director of the National Security Agency and Easterly served in intelligence and cyber operations roles in the Army and is currently in charge of investment bank Morgan Stanley’s [MS] cyber defenses.
The unanimous voice vote also included the nomination of Robin Carnahan to be the administrator of the General Services Administration.