Top Biden cyber official will not get permanent role due to personal debts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House’s acting national cyber director was informed in recent weeks she would not be considered to serve in a permanent role because of personal debt issues that would make her difficult to confirm, a source with knowledge of the matter said.

Kemba Walden, who has been acting director since mid-February, has received endorsements from Democrats and Republicans as well as her predecessor, former National Cyber Director Chris Inglis.

White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients had praised Walden – one of the few Black women leaders in a profession dominated by White men – for demonstrating “excellent leadership” when she took on her role in February.

As acting director, Walden has overseen the rollout of the administration’s national cyber strategy and implementation plan.

A U.S. official, who did not wish to be named, told Reuters in a statement the vetting process is designed to assess whether a candidate has any issues that would prove disqualifying in a Senate confirmation process.

“It’s all done towards the ultimate goal of getting someone confirmed.”

The administration has had a tough time getting nominees through this year including Biden’s pick for labor secretary Julie Su and has had to withdraw several nominees since March.

White House spokeswoman Emilie Simons said Walden “has demonstrated strong leadership overseeing the Office of the National Cyber Director (ONCD).”

“The Biden-Harris Administration – and the American people – greatly appreciate Acting Director Walden’s vision and service…,” Simons said.

Simons did not comment on Walden’s personal debt issues and why she would not be considered for the role.

The Washington Post was first to report this story. Walden confirmed to the newspaper she recently withdrew from consideration of the nomination but declined to comment further.

Walden did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington, Editing by Franklin Paul)