Who will take over for Chris Krebs?

Who will take over for Chris Krebs?
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As Steven Covey once said, “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success. Leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.” For his time as the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Chris Krebs was able to lean our federal cybersecurity ladder against the right wall.

But who will be the next director? How will he or she help the agency make it up that ladder? I do not have a crystal ball, and I do not have inside information, but if Joe Biden and his team want to continue the success of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, they need to select a strong replacement for Krebs.

He is best known for getting fired by Donald Trump, but that is not his only success. He was a huge success as the first director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which in the past was the National Protection and Programs Directorate. But does anyone remember what that was? Of course not. But Krebs redefined it to focus on protecting and defending the cybersecurity and infrastructure security of the country, and spun off protecting government building and biometrics.

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Krebs pushed for a rebranding from the National Protection and Programs Directorate to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. He became the face of a unit that did not have a name, and his work, notably during his final months battling election misinformation and creating the rumor control website, put the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency on the map. As a friend has described it, it was like building the Federal Aviation Administration with only air traffic controllers and no pilots, so his efforts are all the more laudable.

As the new administration looks for a new director, it must find someone who can address other issues, like the organization of Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and its weakness within the bureaucracy. Constant reshuffles, hiring problems, and competing fiefdoms within the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency continue to dog it as it attempts to grow from a largely forgotten subsidiary of the Homeland Security Department to the weighty counterpart of Cyber Command at the Pentagon led by General Paul Nakasone.

But the next director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, with the mission of protecting government networks, driving federal partnerships, and managing interagency efforts, has less than half the budget of Cyber Command. This stems from a concern in Congress and sometimes the White House that the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is not the Pentagon, and therefore is not able to handle more money or more responsibility. Nakasone is more respected and more trusted on the issue of cybersecurity, and that is a problem for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Whoever leads the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency next must have the gravitas to go head to head with Nakasone and win. The evident perception of its weakness and incompetence stems from a lack of internal discipline and accountability. There is confusion as the people who have the pen are often overruled or ignored by all the other players. The Cybersecurity Division has more power than any other section, which creates tension and resentment at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Year after year it enters a new stage of restructuring, often with the best intentions but to no effect.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency does great work. But in order to become the true expert on cybersecurity and to climb that ladder of success, it needs a strong director who will deal with the internal conflicts and create a united front. This will fully establish it as the lead cybersecurity department in the government.

Tatyana Bolton is the managing senior fellow for the cybersecurity and emerging threats team with the R Street Institute based in Washington.