President Joe Biden is hiring a group of national security veterans with deep cyber expertise, drawing praise from former defense officials and investigators as the US government works to recover from one of the biggest hacks of its agencies attributed to Russian spies.
“It is great to see the priority that the new administration is giving to cyber,” said Suzanne Spaulding, director of the Defending Democratic Institutions project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Cyber-security was demoted as a policy field under the Trump administration. It discontinued the Cyber-security Coordinator position at the White House, shrunk the State Department’s cyber diplomacy wing, and fired federal cyber-security leader Chris Krebs.
Under a recent law, Biden must open a cyber-focused office reporting to a new National Cyber Director, who will coordinate the federal government’s vast cyber capabilities, said Mark Montgomery, a former congressional staffer who helped design the role.
Biden’s National Security Council, an arm of the White House that guides an administration’s security priorities, includes five experienced cyber-security officials.
Leading the hires is National Security Agency senior official Anne Neuberger as Deputy National Security Adviser for cyber and emerging technology, a new position designed to elevate the subject internally.
“The United States remains woefully unprepared for 21st century security threats – the establishment and prioritization of a DNSA for Cyber and Emerging Tech on the NSC indicates the seriousness the Biden Administration will afford to addressing these challenges,” said Phil Reiner, chief executive of the Institute for Security and Technology.
Neuberger became one of the most visible figures at NSA in recent years after leading the spy agency’s cyber defense wing, drawing praise for quickly alerting companies to hacking techniques in use by other countries.
The other four hires are Michael Sulmeyer as senior director for cyber, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall as Homeland security adviser, Russ Travers as deputy homeland security adviser and Caitlin Durkovich as senior director for resilience and response at the NSC.
All four previously served in senior national security posts that dealt with cyber-security.