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Chris Inglis Assumes Nation’s First Top Cyber Post

The Air Force and NSA veteran is charged with implementation of Biden’s recent cyber executive order.

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John "Chris" Inglis appears at an August 2020 U.S. Senate hearing on recommendations from the Cyberspace Solarium Commission.
John "Chris" Inglis appears at an August 2020 U.S. Senate hearing on recommendations from the Cyberspace Solarium Commission. Photo Credit: C-SPAN

The Senate unanimously confirmed John “Chris” Inglis as the first National Cyber Director last Thursday as major cyberattacks continue to pummel the nation’s critical infrastructure following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Congress created the position in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2021, per a recommendation from the Cyberspace Solarium Commission. President Joe Biden nominated Inglis to the position April 12.

The White House expects Inglis to spearhead implementation of Biden’s May 12 Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity, which aims to improve federal agencies’ cyber strategies, root out vulnerabilities in the IT supply chain and facilitate better information-sharing regarding major cyberattacks.

Inglis’ confirmation comes not a moment too soon as cyber experts repeatedly called for a “cyber czar” to lead the nation’s cyber strategies over the past year as cyberattacks accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trey Herr, who leads the Cyber Statecraft Initiative under the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council, said a national cyber director will have the opportunity to develop relationships with cloud service providers (CSPs) to improve the entire IT ecosystem’s approach to cybersecurity.

“This is an opportunity for the national cyber director to not only rationalize behaviors, but also support them and empower partners across the fed enterprise,” he said at a March security event hosted by GovernmentCIO Media & Research. “The national cyber director office size, 75 staff, means there are opportunities to build clusters of expertise and build out networks outside the federal government.”

In an interview on CyberCast, Cyberspace Solarium Commissioner Suzanne Spaulding said the U.S. needs a national cyber director to serve as a “quarterback” for U.S. cyber efforts.

During a House Oversight & Reform hearing last summer, members of both parties unanimously agreed a national cyber director was necessary and that creating the position would not create more bureaucracy bloat.

Inglis graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1976 and served in the U.S. Air Force until 2006, when he assumed the role of deputy director for the National Security Agency (NSA). Since 2015 he has served as a distinguished visiting professor in cybersecurity studies at the Naval Academy.

During his nomination hearing, Inglis said addressing the recent surge in malicious cyber activity requires immediate action and oversight, emphasizing his commitment to the mission of the role.

“It will not stop of its own accord, it is not a fire raging across the prairie that once it’s consumed the fuel it will simply stop and we can simply wait for that moment, we must stand in,” Inglis said. “It will never go away completely, but we can bring it down, we can bring it to heel significantly.”

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