House and Senate lawmakers called on President Biden last week to expedite the nomination of Kemba Walden to head the Office of the National Cyber Director (ONCD), which she has run in an acting capacity since February.

In a May 11 letter addressed to President Biden, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., said that Congress would receive Walden’s nomination as the new National Cyber Director (NCD) with “fair consideration and swift confirmation.”

Sen. King and Rep. Gallagher are co-chairs of CSC 2.0, a nonprofit that succeeded the  Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC) created by Congress in 2019 to develop policy and legislation reflecting a strategic approach to defending the U.S. against cyberattacks.

“As the co-chairs of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, we write to you to urge your expeditious nomination of a new national cyber director,” Sen. King and Rep. Gallagher wrote. “Officials from the Department of Defense, the Intelligence Community, and the Department of Homeland Security have repeatedly testified about the significant cyber threats facing our country and the importance of coordination required across the federal government in view of those threats.”

Walden stepped in as acting head of ONCD when the inaugural NCD, Chris Inglis, left the White House on Feb. 15.

“Since Chris Inglis’ departure and even prior, Acting NCD Kemba Walden has demonstrated that she is highly qualified for and well suited to the position,” the lawmakers wrote. “We urge you to send her nomination to Congress soon, where we believe she will receive fair consideration and swift confirmation.”

Inglis spent his 20 months in the NCD leadership position establishing the new White House cyber office and creating and finalizing the Biden administration’s National Cybersecurity Strategy. The much-anticipated strategy – released on March 2 – keys on improving security in already-regulated critical infrastructure sectors, shifting more security responsibility onto providers of tech products and services, and using “all tools of national power” to go after attackers.

Sen. King and Rep. Gallagher expressed excitement that ONCD’s strategy has finally come to fruition, but now they are eager to see implementation. Lacking a permanent director, the CSC leaders said, could hinder the implementation strategy – which is expected to be released this summer.

“While we applaud the White House’s efforts under Director Inglis to stand up the office and his strong leadership in drafting the National Cybersecurity Strategy, we are extremely concerned that the three-month delay (and counting) in nominating a candidate to replace Chris will hinder the implementation of the strategy and lead to a lessening of the stature of the office,” the CSC leaders said.

Sen. King and Rep. Gallagher concluded that “Acting NCD Walden is a proven, forward-thinking leader who can seamlessly step into the permanent position today.”

“Ms. Walden’s prior experiences in government and industry give her unique insight into protecting critical infrastructure and fostering public-private collaboration, key pillars of the National Cybersecurity Strategy,” the letter addressed to Biden reads. “We both routinely talk with private sector leaders and they also find Kemba to be a superb choice for NCD. We urge you to ensure the swift nomination of Ms. Walden as the new National Cyber Director.”

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.