Governance & Risk Management , Zero Trust

White House Cyber Director Chris Inglis to Step Down

Exit Tied to Completion of National Cybersecurity Strategy
White House Cyber Director Chris Inglis to Step Down
Chris Inglis, national cyber director, speaks at the Council of Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C. on April 20, 2022. (Image: C-SPAN)

Chris Inglis plans to leave his post as the White House's principal adviser on cybersecurity policy in early 2023, multiple news outlets report.

See Also: Zero Trust: Approaches, Use Cases, and Myths Debunked

The Senate in June 2021 confirmed Inglis to the congressionally created position of national cyber director and head of the Office of the National Cyber Director inside the White House. The former deputy director of the National Security Agency "has a quiet but persuasive leadership style,” Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, said during his confirmation hearing.

Second-in-command Kemba Eneas Walden will serve as acting director, a source familiar with the personnel change told CNN.

A former White House official couldn't confirm Inglis' departure to Information Security Media Group firsthand but said that his chief of staff, John Costello, recently left - a good indicator that Inglis is also heading out the door, the former official said.

"He did say, from the beginning, he's only planning on staying a year, year and a half," the former official added.

A former senior congressional staffer told ISMG that Inglis will time his departure to President Joe Biden's anticipated approval of a new national cybersecurity strategy in the coming months. The strategy will recommend more regulation for critical infrastructure cybersecurity, the staffer said.

"There is an increasing recognition that the threats from nation-states and criminal actors are really undermining our national security," the former staffer said. "Voluntary standards are not enough."

Inglis has been an advocate for bringing more regulation to critical infrastructure (see: CISA Releases Performance Goals for Critical Infrastructure).

"The word 'regulation,' or 'reporting requirements,' often conjures up in the mind's eye this sense of burden - someone is about to require a burden, bear some penalty, some cost," Inglis said in October before a Washington think tank audience. "We too seldom think about what is the more important feature, which is: What's the benefit?"

The benefit, he said, is properly functioning critical infrastructure. "All of us want to walk over to a light switch and have every confidence when we flick that switch the lights will come on."

During a December meeting of an industry advisory committee, Inglis also stressed the importance of zero trust, a readout of the meeting shows. Zero trust was a key element of an executive order on cybersecurity signed by Biden in May 2021 (see: Biden's Cybersecurity Executive Order: 4 Key Takeaways).

Inglis' White House tour will cap off nearly five decades of government service, including 31 years in the U.S. Air Force, where he rose to the rank of brigadier general. Inglis spent nine years as deputy director of the National Security Agency during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations before returning to Washington, D.C. in July 2021 as a Biden administration appointee.

Walden, his anticipated interim replacement, joined the National Cyber Director's office in May after three years at Microsoft, most recently as assistant general counsel for the digital crimes unit. She spent nearly 10 years at the Department of Homeland Security, most of them as an attorney.

About the Author

Michael Novinson

Michael Novinson

Managing Editor, Business, ISMG

Novinson is responsible for covering the vendor and technology landscape. Prior to joining ISMG, he spent four and a half years covering all the major cybersecurity vendors at CRN, with a focus on their programs and offerings for IT service providers. He was recognized for his breaking news coverage of the August 2019 coordinated ransomware attack against local governments in Texas as well as for his continued reporting around the SolarWinds hack in late 2020 and early 2021.

David Perera

David Perera

Editorial Director, News, ISMG

Perera is editorial director for news at Information Security Media Group. He previously covered privacy and data security for outlets including MLex and Politico.

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