The Senate today confirmed by unanimous consent former NSA deputy for counterterrorism Jen Easterly to lead the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at the Department of Homeland Security.
Easterly was nominated to lead the agency, whose role has become more critical with recent high-profile ransomware attacks and the Colonial Pipeline shutdown, in April. Her nomination was passed out of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee without objection last month, but Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) placed a hold on the nomination until President Biden or Vice President Kamala Harris visited the U.S.-Mexico border. Harris visited a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in Texas and visit the Paso del Norte Port of Entry along with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in late June.
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who called for unanimous consent on the Senate floor today, said the upper chamber should have confirmed Easterly before leaving for the two-week Fourth of July recess.
“I warned that without confirming Ms. Easterly we risked leaving ourselves vulnerable to cyberattacks, and in the two weeks since I last called on my colleagues to approve this critical nomination, nation-state actors and criminal organizations have continued their relentless targeting of the United States,” Peters said.
Easterly was a managing director at Morgan Stanley, serving as global head of the firm’s Fusion Resilience Center, and a senior fellow at New America’s International Security program. After her NSA role from 2011-2013, she served on the National Security Council as special assistant to the president and senior director for counterterrorism.
Easterly served more than 20 years in the Army and was responsible for standing up the Army’s first cyber battalion. She was also instrumental in the creation of U.S. Cyber Command, and served as executive assistant to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice for a time.
The first Senate-confirmed CISA director, Chris Krebs, tweeted that Easterly is “the perfect leader for an increasingly important agency.”
“Bravo to Brandon Wales [for] leading the agency the last 8 months,” Krebs added. “Excited to watch this team continue to do great things.”
Mayorkas said in a statement that Easterly “is a brilliant cybersecurity expert and a proven leader with a career spanning military service, civil service, and the private sector.”
“I am proud to welcome her to the DHS team and look forward to working together to protect our country from urgent cybersecurity and physical threats,” he said.
Mayorkas also thanked Wales, who was appointed acting director of CISA after former President Trump fired Krebs in November 2020. “Brandon’s steadfast, superb leadership has been invaluable, especially as CISA continues to respond to rising cybersecurity incidents impacting businesses, government, communities, and critical infrastructure across our nation,” Mayorkas said.
The secretary told House lawmakers last month that CISA was being kept “extraordinarily busy” but would be well-funded in Biden’s budget request, which “will also allow CISA to enhance its cybersecurity tools, hire qualified experts, and obtain support services to protect and defend critical infrastructure and federal information technology systems.”
“I’m an incredibly proud to serve as the cheerleader for CISA, and I am undaunted and unrelenting in that regard,” Mayorkas told the House Homeland Security Committee.