Biden taps intelligence veteran for new White House cybersecurity role

Biden taps intelligence veteran for new White House cybersecurity role

Anne Neuberger, the NSA’s director of cybersecurity, will join Biden’s National Security Council.
President-elect Joe Biden plans to pluck a career intelligence official from the National Security Agency to serve in a newly created cybersecurity role on his National Security Council.

Anne Neuberger, who joined the NSA more than a decade ago and has been serving as the agency’s director of cybersecurity since 2019, will be named deputy national security adviser for cybersecurity in the incoming NSC, according to two people familiar with the plans.

Neuberger’s hiring indicates that the Biden White House intends to reelevate cybersecurity as a key national security priority after President Donald Trump eliminated the role of cybersecurity coordinator in 2018.

Neuberger will be responsible for coordinating the federal government’s cybersecurity efforts, with a likely emphasis on responding to a massive cyberespionage campaign carried out last year by suspected Russian hackers, which the government is still struggling to unravel. Neuberger will be well-positioned for the role — in her capacity as the NSA’s first director of cybersecurity, Neuberger was tasked with managing intelligence information sharing between the NSA and other government agencies, as well as the private sector, about threats to critical infrastructure.

A transition spokesperson declined to comment on personnel but said in a statement that “the Biden-Harris Administration will make cybersecurity a top priority, elevating it as an imperative across the government from day one. We will strengthen our partnerships with the private sector, academia, and civil society; renew our commitment to international norms and engagement on cyber issues; and expand our investment in the infrastructure and people we need to effectively defend the nation against the malicious cyber activity.”

Biden has spoken out forcefully about the cyber breach and faulted the Pentagon for not sufficiently briefing the transition team on the fallout last month. “Cyberattacks must be treated as a serious threat by our leadership at the highest level,” Biden said. “That means making clear and [public] who’s responsible for the attack and taking meaningful steps to hold them to account.”

Trump has refused to blame Russia for the hack and said in a tweet last month that China could be responsible. But his own intelligence community has publicly pointed the finger at Russia.

A spokesperson for the NSA declined to comment.

Neuberger is widely respected throughout the cybersecurity and intelligence community and is well-known among the congressional intelligence committees who have worked with her during her tenure at NSA. One congressional staffer said Neuberger had “proven herself to be one of the most capable and respected cyber experts across government throughout her decade-plus of experience at NSA.”

The staffer described her hiring as “a big loss” for the NSA but emphasized that her experience is “needed now more than ever at the highest levels of government, especially in light of recent events and the shifting cyber threat landscape. It’s also such a welcome development to see a woman leading in such a critical national security issue, especially given the dearth of women in senior national security roles.”

Legal expert Ben Wittes, who has collaborated with Neuberger on legal and intelligence topics in the past, called her “unusually talented” and said her appointment sends a “very positive message” about the incoming administration’s approach to cybersecurity.

Eli Sugarman, the director of the Cyber Initiative at the Hewlett Foundation, was similarly complimentary, saying Neuberger “brings a unique blend of policy acumen, operational experience, and deep relationships across government, industry and the policy community to this critical role. I can’t think of someone better equipped to protect U.S. national security while also balancing civil liberties and other vital equities.”

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