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White House Announces Key Cybersecurity Appointments

The relatively new Office of the National Cyber Director has named Kemba Walden, Neal Higgins and Rob Knake to serve as deputy national cyber directors, the White House said in an announcement today.

The Office of the National Cyber Director (ONCD) is gathering its senior leadership team, with three cybersecurity leaders assuming deputy director roles, the White House announced today.

Hopes have been high for the office, which launched officially in 2021, after being recommended by the Cyberspace Solarium Commission.

But cyber experts also told GovTech last August that they were waiting to see if Director Chris Inglis would get the resources needed to make an impact. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act set aside a $21 million infusion for Inglis’ office, and the office is now building out its team.

Attorney Kemba Walden is leaving Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit to become the inaugural principal deputy national cyber director, a post she’ll assume “in coming weeks,” the announcement said.

Walden will be joining Neal Higgins, who departed the CIA to become the deputy national cyber director for national cybersecurity. He’s already instated, as is the third new addition Deputy National Cyber Director for Strategy and Budget Rob Knake. Knake’s background includes cybersecurity roles under former President Obama.

“As we continue to build this new office, the additions of Kemba, Neal and Rob will accelerate our efforts to protect Americans in cyberspace,” Inglis said in the White House announcement. “Each of these leaders brings impressive experience in cybersecurity policymaking to our team, and their diverse perspectives will be invaluable as we strengthen our collective defense.”

The Office of the National Cyber Director is charged with advising the president about “cybersecurity policy and strategy,” coordinating cybersecurity efforts and goals across agencies and sectors and boosting national cyber resilience, the White House announcement stated.

Inglis has often said his role is to help create and see implemented a national cybersecurity strategy and to bring cohesion and clarity to the federal government’s cybersecurity efforts.


Walden served as Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit’s assistant general counsel, kicked off and led its Ransomware Program and has a track record of advisory and government work. She’s a member of the Cyber Safety Review Board and co-chair of the Institute for Security and Technology (IST)-organized Ransomware Task Force.

She also clocked a decade with the Department of Homeland Security, including time at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), according to the announcement.

Higgins comes to his new role from the CIA, where he was responsible for its “cyber operations, open source collection, data science and secure global communications,” as its associate deputy director for digital innovation. He’s also served as deputy chief of the WikiLeaks Task Force and director of congressional affairs for the CIA, according to the White House.

Knake served under the Obama administration in the cyber directorate at the National Security Council and for CISA-predecessor agency, the National Protection and Programs Directorate. Recently, he was a senior fellow at foreign policy think tank the Council on Foreign Relations and a fellow at Harvard Belfer Center’s Cyber Project, which studies policy questions around cyberspace conflict. Knake has also advised private-sector firms about cybersecurity.