US Senate confirms Jen Easterly as head of cyber agency

Easterly brings both corporate and military experience to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency

The US Senate on Monday unanimously confirmed Jen Easterly as the new director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) within the Department of Homeland Security. The agency, established in 2018, is responsible for the security, resiliency, and reliability of the nation's cybersecurity and communications infrastructure.

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CISA has not had an official director since November, when then-President Donald Trump fired Chris Krebs, the agency's first director, for debunking election fraud myths. Krebs' deputy, Brandon Wales, took on the position on an interim basis, leaving CISA without a full-time leader amid the fallout from the SolarWinds hacks and a number of other state-sponsored attacks on government organizations. 

Easterly brings both corporate and military experience to the role. She most recently worked for Morgan Stanley as head of resilience. She also served as the Cyber Policy Lead for the Biden-Harris presidential transition team. 

Earlier, Easterly served at the White House as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Counterterrorism and as the Deputy for Counterterrorism at the National Security Agency. She retired from the US Army after more than 20 years of service in intelligence and cyber operations and was responsible for standing up the Army's first cyber battalion. Easterly was also instrumental in the design and creation of the United States Cyber Command. She is a  two-time recipient of the Bronze Star.

President Joe Biden nominated Easterly to lead the important agency in April, and Senate Democrats initially attempted to confirm her nomination in late June. However, her nomination was held up briefly by Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida as a means of bringing attention to the US-Mexico border. Scott said he would refuse to confirm any Department of Homeland Security nominees until Vice President Kamala Harris went to the border, which she did shortly thereafter.

Amid the delay, ZDNet spoke with a number of experts about whether CISA should be spun off from the DHS.