US Principal Deputy National Cyber Director Kemba Walden is reportedly expected to become the country’s acting national cyber director. The update comes after it was reported that the present US National Cyber Director John “Chris” Inglis – the first one ever to assume the top post at the newly-formed Office of the National Cyber Director (ONCD) – is preparing to step down.
Inglis, US president Joe Biden’s nominee for the country’s top cyber-defence post, will be stepping down in a few weeks after spending an 18-month tenure, CNN reported. Inglis told the news network he anticipated this soon, without confirming his retirement plans.
Walden, currently ONCD principal deputy national cyber director, is expected to become the acting top boss of the organization, Axios reported citing “sources familiar with the matter”. An official confirmation on both Inglis’s retirement and Walden’s promotion is yet to be out.
Chris Inglis: Setting up ONCD from scratch
ONCD was set up in early 2021 as part of the Biden government campaign to bolster the US cybersecurity strategy, after it was revealed that Russian state-sponsored hackers accessed several US government departments.
Inglis was instrumental in developing what was a one-man bureau in July 2021 to about 70 executives in November 2022, forging strong and active ties with federal agencies and private sector enterprises.
The US Senate appointed Chris Inglis as the first National Cyber Director after a unanimous vote on June 17, 2021, after creating the top boss post under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 2021, according to the recommendation by the US Cyberspace Solarium Commission.
A defence and security veteran, Chris Inglis was chosen for the post while serving as a visiting professor for cyber studies US Naval Academy, managing director at Paladin Capital, a member of the boards of many public and private firms, and as a Commissioner on the US Cyberspace Solarium Commission.
US president Joe Biden nominated him to the post on April 12. Subsequently, he resigned from all other positions. One of his noted exits were from FedEx, where he was a director. Inglis was a director on the company’s board.
“The Biden administration has recognized an exceptional talent in our board member, John Chris Inglis,” said company CEO and chairman Fred Smith, bidding farewell to Inglis in a Q4 earnings in 2021.
“We benefited from Chris’ cybersecurity and information technology expertise since he joined our board in 2015, and we wish him well in the hugely important role for which he has been tapped.”
Kemba Walden Contender for ONCD Top Post After Chris Inglis
Walden, an attorney by profession, joined ONCD in May 2022 from Microsoft, where she was an assistant general counsel in the company’s digital crimes unit. She led the DCU mission to launch and lead its ransomware news program.
Before Microsoft, she spent a decade in government service at the Department of Homeland Security, most recently at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
If elected, she will be replacing Inglis in Biden’s trio of cyber-defence bosses, the other two being White House’s National Security Council deputy national security adviser (cyber) Anne Neuberger and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) director Jen Easterly.
The Biden trio was responsible for setting up and running the US executive-branch cybersecurity operation that was ripped apart by the Trump government, earning praise from the industry and policymakers.
The Trump government took down the White House cyber coordinator position in 2018. The former president also earned flak for firing former CISA director Chris Krebs by tweet in 2020, after Krebs dismissed Trump’s claims that the election was “rigged.