Kemba Walden, acting director at the White House’s Office of the National Cyber Director (OCND), has withdrawn her name from consideration for the permanent National Cyber Director position, an ONCD spokesperson confirmed to MeriTalk today.

Walden stepped in as acting head of ONCD when the inaugural NCD, Chris Inglis, left the White House on Feb. 15. The Biden-Harris administration has not yet named a new nominee to permanently fill the position.

“Acting Director Walden recently withdrew from consideration for the National Cyber Director nomination,” the ONCD spokesperson said in an emailed statement on July 17. “She intends to continue in the acting position and remains focused on making the digital ecosystem more secure, defensible, and aligned with our values.”

The Record first broke the news that Walden – who many assumed would take over the full-time role of NCD at the White House – had been told she wouldn’t receive the nomination. She then withdrew her name from the process.

The Washington Post reported this weekend that concerns about debt levels of Walden and her husband could be a complicating factor in a nomination that needs Senate approval.

Walden’s work at the ONCD has both produced solid results and won wide praise.

Just last week, the Biden-Harris administration announced an implementation plan for the new national cyber strategy, which Walden shepherded through completion.

The Office of the National Cyber Director was created by Congress in 2021 to advise the president on cybersecurity policy and strategy following a recommendation by the bipartisan Cyberspace Solarium Commission.

Inglis tapped Walden to be his principal deputy NCD over a year ago. She had worked as a lawyer handling cyber issues at Microsoft for three years, and before that, as an attorney at the Department of Homeland Security for nearly a decade.

In addition to overseeing rollout of the National Cybersecurity Strategy implementation plan, Walden also spearheaded development of the first National Cyber Workforce and Education Strategy, which is expected to be released soon. And last month, she issued guidance with the White House budget director to all Federal agencies on aligning their 2025 cybersecurity spending with the cyber strategy’s priorities.

Walden also has important advocates on Capitol Hill.

In a recent letter addressed to President Biden, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., said that Congress would receive Walden’s nomination as the new NCD with “fair consideration and swift confirmation.”

“As the co-chairs of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, we write to you to urge your expeditious nomination of a new national cyber director,” Sen. King and Rep. Gallagher wrote. “Officials from the Department of Defense, the Intelligence Community, and the Department of Homeland Security have repeatedly testified about the significant cyber threats facing our country and the importance of coordination required across the federal government in view of those threats.”

“Since Chris Inglis’ departure and even prior, Acting NCD Kemba Walden has demonstrated that she is highly qualified for and well suited to the position,” the lawmakers wrote. “We urge you to send her nomination to Congress soon, where we believe she will receive fair consideration and swift confirmation.”

Similarly, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, wrote a letter signed by 31 of his colleagues urging the White House to nominate Walden, citing her experience and successes as acting director.

“Ms. Walden has a proven track record of leadership, and her contributions to cybersecurity are well-documented,” Rep. Thompson wrote. “Already, she has proven herself to be an effective champion of the White House’s cybersecurity agenda.”

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has made repeated calls for the White House to permanently fill the vacant seat, noting that the “continued vacancy in the role of National Cyber Director” poses a “challenge” to implementation of the plan.

“This vacancy leaves unfilled a key leadership role needed to coordinate federal efforts to address cybersecurity threats and challenges,” GAO said. “Further, sustained leadership in this position is essential to ensuring strategy execution and accountability.”

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.