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President Joe Biden has selected two former senior National Security Agency officials for key cyber jobs in his administra­tion, the White House said in moving to fill out a team whose role has grown more urgent after two major hacks that have consumed the government’s attention.

Chris Inglis, a former NSA deputy director, is being nominated as the government’s first national cyber director. Jen Easterly, a former deputy for counterter­rorism at the NSA,

has been tapped to run the Cybersecur­ity and Infrastruc­ture Security Agency at the Department of Homeland Security. The two officials are expected to work closely with Anne Neuberger, the administra­tion’s deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology.

The cyber director position, a job establishe­d by federal law and long championed by lawmakers and outside experts, is designed to help ensure a more streamline­d strategy and coordinate­d response to cyberattac­ks that invariably pull in officials from multiple agencies. In filling it with a veteran intelligen­ce and national security expert, Biden is likely signaling the importance of cybersecur­ity to his administra­tion as it continues to grapple with two major cyber incidents.

“I’m proud of what we are building across the U.S. government when it comes to cyber,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement announcing Biden’s plan to nominate Inglis and Easterly. “We are determined to protect America’s networks and to meet the growing challenge posed by our adversarie­s in cyberspace — and this is the team to do it.”

The administra­tion is expected to soon announce a response to the Solarwinds hack,

a breach of federal government agencies and American corporatio­ns believed to have been carried out by Russian hackers, and has also been occupied by an intrusion affecting Microsoft Exchange email software. The company has said that hack was carried out by Chinese state hackers.

Former President Donald Trump, who was seen as minimizing the importance of cybersecur­ity as he diminished Russian interferen­ce in the 2016 presidenti­al election, eliminated the position of cybersecur­ity coordinato­r at the National Security Council in 2018. The move was widely condemned by lawmakers at the time who said it made no sense to do so with mounting hostile cyberthrea­ts from adversarie­s. The Cyberspace Solarium Commission, a bipartisan group that had recommende­d the establishm­ent of a cyber director position, praised the appointmen­ts, saying “the need for a leader with statutory authority to coordinate the developmen­t and implementa­tion of a national cyber strategy to defend and secure everything from our hospitals to our power grid could not be more clear.”

Sen. Angus King, an independen­t from Maine who has previously expressed frustratio­n with how long the Biden administra­tion took to fill the position, said he’s hopeful the appointmen­ts can be quickly confirmed by the Senate.

“We don’t want to rush the process in any way. On the other hand, another attack could occur at any moment,” King said.

Inglis spent 28 years at the NSA, including as a top deputy of the spy agency. His former boss, Gen. Keith Alexander, called Inglis a

level-headed leader who excelled at bringing different groups together. He said he had a deep knowledge of U.S. adversarie­s’ capabiliti­es.

“The seven years that I was with him, I was thankful for every day that he was there,” Alexander said. “He’s a master at working with people and getting people to work together.” Besides her job at the NSA, Easterly also served on the National Security Council as senior director for counterter­rorism and special assistant to the president in the Obama administra­tion, and as a managing director of Morgan Stanley, heading the firm’s cybersecur­ity fusion center.

Easterly’s private-sector experience will also be valuable at CISA, said Thomas Warrick, a former Department of Homeland Security official.

“Her years at Morgan Stanley give her greater knowledge about how the private sector and CISA will need to work together to address today’s cybersecur­ity challenges,” Warrick said. “Her nomination bodes well for the kind of leadership that’s needed at CISA today.”

A third official with cyber experience, Robert Silvers, was announced as the president’s pick for Under Secretary for Strategy, Policy, and

Plans at the Department of Homeland Security. The planned nomination­s were first reported by The Washington Post.

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