As President Joe Biden plans a withdrawal of U.S. troops from the “forever war” in Afghanistan, it’s not a new fact that the next war will likely be fought with 0s and 1s rather than bullets. How is his administration preparing for this new war?
Upon entering office, the new administration was already facing an uphill battle on the cyber front because they had to deal with the blowout and damage control from the SolarWinds attack, which the Department of Defense believes it escaped. Biden sanctioned Russia but has called for “de-escalation.” From the onset, Biden has made cybersecurity a top priority for national security. The president spoke publicly about cybersecurity at a press conference at the State Department and listed it in the Interim National Security Strategic Guidance.
To prepare for the next war, the Biden administration has focused on filling key cyber appointments. Anne Neuberger was tapped as deputy national security advisor for cyber and emerging technologies on the National Security Council, a newly created role. Neuberger spent her career dealing with cyber issues and was previously the first director of cybersecurity at the National Security Agency (NSA), where she led the agency on preventing cyber threats from state actors such as Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.
Another vital position to protect the U.S. from cyber threats is the federal chief information security officer. For this role, the Biden administration chose Chris DeRusha, who previously served as the State of Michigan’s chief security officer and as a senior cybersecurity advisor during the Obama Administration. In his new position, DeRusha leads the government in modernizing and securing federal networks from the continuous threats faced daily.
Additionally, in April, Biden announced his intent to nominate Ronald Moultrie for under secretary of defense for intelligence and security; Michael McCord for under secretary of defense (comptroller); and Michael Brown for under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment. Moultrie brings understanding and experience of cyber threats from his previous roles including serving as the NSA’s director of operations and leading the creation of the Navy’s digital roadmap focusing on cybersecurity, data, and emerging technology. McCord previously served as comptroller under the Obama administration and is familiar with the defense budget and auditing that will be needed to reign in unneeded programs to meet shifting national security priorities. Brown brings a unique experience of working in the private and public sectors of defense and technology. He is currently the director of the Defense Innovation Unit, which works with private tech companies to develop new technologies that help protect the U.S. If confirmed, he would be a vital player in the making sure the U.S is prepared for the next war.
Other key Biden nominees include Chris Inglis for national cyber director and Jen Easterly for director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Tasked with heading national cyber policy, the national cyber director position within the Executive Office of the President was established under the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.
These are the first of many DoD nominees to be named but are some of the most important in guiding and shaping the department’s shift to face new threats from cyber, technology, and global power competition. Similarly, the director of CISA plays a critical role in protecting domestic entities and works with private companies in coordinating and mitigating cyber-attacks.
Times are changing and protecting U.S. vital interests is more than having the biggest military. The Biden administration’s cybersecurity priorities reflect the shift into 21st century to not only protect from cyber threats but also to become the leader in cyber capabilities.