Former CIA, NSA Official Set to Become National Cyber Chief

( – In February, the first-ever National Cyber Director, Chris Inglis, resigned from his position, a role created by the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. Kemba Eneas Walden stepped up into the position as acting director, however, the permanent role has been vacant for months. Lawmakers are now pushing the Biden Administration to fill it, and it seems the White House has someone in mind.

Harry Coker Tapped for Position

On July 25, President Joe Biden revealed a number of nominees for various positions, including Harry Coker, for National Cyber director. If confirmed, he would be responsible for overseeing the implementation of the new national cybersecurity strategy created by the Biden Administration.

Coker has decades of experience serving his country, including 20 years in the US Navy. After his military service, he worked with the NSA and the CIA in various national security positions, including as executive director and director of Open Source Enterprise, respectively.

Coker’s experience is well heralded by members of Congress, many of whom seemed pleased with the choice. Sen. Angus King (I-ME) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) are two that spoke out in his favor. Former Director Inglis is also confident in the nominee’s abilities, saying Coker “can sustain the [office’s] forward momentum.” He was a strong proponent for Walden, as well. Coker’s likeability across the board may help him in the long run.

Not Everyone Thinks He’s a Good Fit

One of the cornerstones of the Biden Administration has been nominating officials for positions where they lack one or more key qualification suited to the role. It seems like it’s more of the same with Coker. According to The Washington Post, someone speaking on condition of anonymity said while the nominee has a lot of experience in national security, he’s not known to have “deep cyber experience within government or industry,” which could pose an issue when it comes time to confirm him. He currently works at Auburn University‚Äôs McCrary Institute for Cyber and Critical Infrastructure Security as a senior fellow.

Another source said taking over the role would be like “climbing up a sheer granite cliff,” because Coker didn’t have a hand in writing the strategy implementation plan. Walden, on the other hand, does, but she wasn’t in line for consideration due to personal debt issues. She was reportedly told that having such a high amount of debt would lead to “a rough time” during her Senate confirmation.

Coker seems to have broad support, with Democrats, Republicans, and Independents all speaking in his favor. It’s not yet clear when his confirmation process will move forward.

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