Kemba Walden, acting manager since mid-February, said: Five weeks ago, one person, who, like others interviewed, spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said her large debts were an opportunity for senators to “hurt her.” said it would.
Walden’s reasons surprised friends and colleagues who heard them.they said she was well qualified He pointed out that she had come up with an implementation plan for a new national cyber strategy in just six weeks. She received accolades from Congressional Black Caucus, Senator Angus King (Maine, Republican), Rep. Mike Gallagher (Republican, Wisconsin), and former National Cyber Director Chris Inglis, who was the first to take up the position and retire. supported by February after announcing her national strategy.
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Walden and her husband, a Department of Commerce attorney, have two young children who go to private school and have a mortgage, according to friends who don’t work in the White House. It is said that it is no different from an American of class. “She’s a civil servant. He’s a civil servant,” said a friend of hers. “They don’t have the wealth that is passed down through generations. They borrowed money to send their children to private schools. And most importantly, they pay the bills.” If the conditions for getting a job were to be independent and wealthy, the jobs would be even poorer, as many of the brightest would be left out.”
Friday, Walden told the Washington Post She recently withdrew from consideration for nomination. She declined to comment further. Walden is also one of the few black female leaders in a field traditionally dominated by white men.
“She intends to continue in her acting role and will continue to focus on making the digital ecosystem more secure, defensible and aligned with our values,” said Michael Morris, spokeswoman for the firm. ‘ said.
White House press secretary Emily Simmons thanked Walden for his work in a statement to the Post. “Acting National Cyber Director Kemba Walden has demonstrated strong leadership overseeing the Office of the National Cyber Director,” Simmons said. “The Biden-Harris Administration and the American people greatly appreciate Acting Secretary Walden’s vision and contributions to advancing national security, economic prosperity and technological innovation.”
A government official said in general terms: “The vetting process helps assess whether a candidate has problems that would disqualify it from the Senate approval process.
The White House’s favorite is Harry Coker, a highly regarded former senior CIA and National Security Agency official, two people familiar with the matter said. Coker, who is black, said he is currently undergoing a review. The White House declined to comment on the reasons for Walden’s resignation or potential replacement.
Biden also has Ann Neuberger, the Vice President’s National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technologies, who has not been approved by the Senate.
Experts familiar with the arcane rules and practices of presidential candidate screening said it was unusual to turn down a qualified candidate because of personal debt. “I’ve never heard of anything like that before,” said a lawyer working in the area, who requested anonymity because the matter is sensitive.
“If she’s actually paying her debts or hasn’t defaulted on them, I think it’s highly unusual for her to be held because of that,” the attorney said.
Walden has a security clearance that requires him to clean out unusually high debts that could expose him to extortion and recruitment by foreign agents. After being hired to represent Mr. Inglis, Mr. Walden filed Form 278 with the Office of Government Ethics disclosing income, credit card debt, gifts, loans, and spouse’s income.
“If this is really going to be a nomination issue going forward, it’s going to be very focused on what to disclose and how to deal with individual liability,” the lawyer said. “So if this becomes widely known, it will have ripple effects through the Senate approval process.”
The National Cyber Director’s Office was created by Congress in 2021 to advise the president on cybersecurity policy and strategy and make it more difficult for the president to remove the office on a whim. It was recommended by the bipartisan Cyberspace Solarium Commission, co-chaired by King and Gallagher, after President Trump fired the White House’s top cyber policy adviser, removing his position. It is what was done.
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A year ago, Inglis appointed Walden as chief deputy national cyber director. She worked as a cyber attorney at Microsoft for three years, and before that at the Department of Homeland Security where she worked as an attorney for nearly a decade.
The Record, an online cybersecurity publication, first reported what walden said She will not be the permanent National Cyber Director.
As acting director, Walden oversaw the development of the administration’s national cyber strategy. This week she announced her implementation plan. She has spearheaded the development of the soon-to-be-published first National Cyber Workforce and Education Strategy. And last month, along with the White House Budget Director, she issued guidance to all federal agencies to align 2025 cybersecurity spending with cyber strategy priorities.
Walden had important defenders in the Capitol. Rep. Benny G. Thompson of Mississippi, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, wrote a letter in May signed by 31 of his colleagues, citing Biden’s experience and success as acting secretary. requested to nominate.
“MS. Walden has a proven leadership record and her contributions to cybersecurity are well documented,” the letter reads. “She has already proven to be an effective advocate for the White House cybersecurity agenda.”
Eight months ago, Inglis informed the White House of his intention to retire after formulating a national cyber strategy. At the White House’s request, he said, he provided the criteria for the secretary’s post and a list of people he would recommend.
Lawmakers and businesses said the White House’s delay in nominating executives was problematic.
“A delay in nominating a candidate for National Cyber Director could hamper the great work done under Secretary Inglis and Acting Secretary Walden, hinder the implementation of the National Cyber Strategy, and undermine the effectiveness of the ONCD. I am concerned about the potential,” he said. A coalition of industry groups, advocacy groups and non-profit cyber organizations said this week in a letter to President Biden’s Chief of Staff Jeff Zientz: Signatories include the Cybersecurity Coalition, BSA/The Software Alliance, Information Technology Industry Council, and Center for Cybersecurity Policy and Law.
Alice Crites contributed to this report.