CISA Brings in Former Obama Official as Chief of Staff

Jackie Niam/

Agency leadership stressed Kiersten Todt’s experience working with the private sector.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has a new chief of staff—Kiersten Todt—with a long history of working with the private sector to shape cybersecurity policy.

“I am thrilled to welcome Kiersten as our new Chief of Staff and my close partner in continuing the transformation of CISA as the nation’s cyber and infrastructure defense agency,” CISA Director Jen Easterly said. “Her experiences in the private sector and in government make her extraordinarily well-qualified for this critical role. I am particularly excited to be able to draw upon Kiersten’s leadership ability and her deep partnerships with industry, to include the small business community—a key element of our nation’s economy.” 

Todt will lead planning, resource allocation, development of long-term goals and lay out a strategic vision to support the agency’s workforce, CISA said in a release Monday. 

Most recently, she had founded and was helming the Cyber Readiness Institute, a non-profit organization trying to help small and medium sized businesses get access to free cybersecurity webinars by working with major corporations.

“The Institute has built a membership of premier companies, including Apple, ExxonMobil, General Motors, Mastercard, Microsoft, PSP Partners and Principal, and The Center for Global Enterprise,” according to a Cyber Readiness Institute which is now searching for Todt’s replacement. “CRI’s Champion Network has grown to include nearly 90 organizations representing a reach of more than two million SMEs around the world.” 

The CRI arose from Todt’s work at the end of the Obama administration in 2016 when she served as executive director of the president’s Commission on Enhancing National Security. The commission was a 12-member bipartisan, public-private group tasked with developing cybersecurity recommendations for the next administration. 

Before that, in 2013, as CEO of the risk management consulting firm Liberty Group Ventures, Todt worked to shape the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s cybersecurity framework for critical infrastructure. The NIST framework has remained at the center of a voluntary approach to cybersecurity policy that has endured across political administrations. Following a series of major hacks this year, including that of Colonial Pipeline, Todt has since noted a need to revisit that approach to include verification of companies’ cybersecurity practices. She has also pushed for less-well represented critical infrastructure sectors, such as water treatment facilities to receive more of the government’s attention and resources.

Todt’s government experience also includes helping to craft some of the provisions—for cybersecurity, infrastructure protection, emergency preparedness, bioterror and science and technology—in the legislation that created the Department of Homeland Security, as a staffer to then Homeland Security Committee Chairman Sen. Joseph Lieberman, according to CISA’s release. 

“I am honored to serve and to join Jen and the tremendous team at CISA to help protect our nation’s critical infrastructure,” Todt said. “I look forward to shaping CISA’s long-term planning and working with industry, federal agencies, and state, local, tribal, and territorial government partners to chart the path forward for a more secure and resilient nation.”