Leadership & Executive Communication , Training & Security Leadership

Harry Coker to Serve as Second National Cyber Director

Senate Confirms Career Naval Officer, Former Head of NSA to Serve in Critical Role
Harry Coker to Serve as Second National Cyber Director
Harry Coker testifying Nov. 2, 2023, before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (Image: U.S. Congress)

A Navy veteran and longtime member of the U.S. intelligence community will serve as the nation's second permanent national cyber director after the Senate confirmed his appointment on a 59-40 vote.

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Harry Coker, a career naval officer who served as executive director of the NSA from 2017 to 2019 and oversaw the open-source enterprise in the CIA's Directorate of Digital Innovation, was confirmed Tuesday to serve as the head of the Office of the National Cyber Director. In his new role, Coker will be tasked with spearheading a "whole of government" approach to implement the national cybersecurity strategy released in March (see: White House Unveils Biden's National Cybersecurity Strategy).

President Joe Biden nominated Coker in July to fill the vacant position at ONCD, which hasn't had a permanent director since Chris Inglis stepped down in February. Coker breezed through his confirmation hearings in November, when the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee unanimously voted to advance his nomination.

Acting National Cyber Director Drenan Dudley celebrated Coker's confirmation in a statement following the Senate vote, saying his "four decades of experience in the public and private sector will further ONCD's success."

"We look forward to his leadership advancing the work underway to implement President Biden's National Cybersecurity Strategy," Dudley said.

During his confirmation hearing, Coker endorsed Biden's cybersecurity strategy and accompanying implementation plan and suggested that the federal government will need to increasingly collaborate with the private sector and Congress to mitigate emerging threats.

"Although the cyber risks are pervasive, the president's national cybersecurity strategy and implementation plan are the road maps we need to tackle them," he said at the time, and later added, "The solutions cannot be about any one entity or even just the federal government."

Federal agencies have already begun working to implement broad objectives outlined in the national cybersecurity strategy, such as increasing incentives that favor long-term investments in cybersecurity and shifting responsibilities from end users to the best-positioned entities capable of mitigating threats. The guidance is broken down into four key pillars: defending critical infrastructure, disrupting and dismantling threat actors, shaping market forces and driving security and resilience, and investing in a resilient future and forging international partnerships to pursue shared cyber goals.

Former Acting National Cyber Director Kemba Walden stepped down from her post in November. In a controversial move, the White House declined to nominate her for the permanent position as it was reported that the administration feared some lawmakers would scrutinize and criticize her personal debts.

About the Author

Chris Riotta

Chris Riotta

Managing Editor, GovInfoSecurity

Riotta is a journalist based in Washington, D.C. He earned his master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where he served as 2021 class president. His reporting has appeared in NBC News, Nextgov/FCW, Newsweek Magazine, The Independent and more.

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