Jeanette Manfra, Chief cybersecurity official,  Department of Homeland Security
Jeanette Manfra, Chief cybersecurity official, Department of Homeland Security

As the chief cybersecurity official in the Department of Homeland Security, Jeanette Manfra is uniquely positioned to help bolster the security of the U.S. critical infrastructure.

Most recently her attention has turned to election security, telling members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs that after Russia interfered in the U.S. elections and many state election systems had been penetrated that securing elections had become a priority in the agency – sometimes at the expense of other critical infrastructure issues.

“Nobody in the election community is waiting for an assessment because we prioritize them,” Manfra testified. “We now have a significant backlog in other critical infrastructure sectors and federal agencies, but nobody in the election community is waiting.”

Ever mindful that “cybersecurity can be daunting,” Manfra, who also worked at DHS during the Obama administration under former Secretary Jeh Johnson, has advocated for the adoption of the easily implemented Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC) standard.

“This directive is our way of showing that the federal government is a participant in the internet, and we take our responsibility seriously,” Manfra said of a binding order regarding DMARC adoption issued by DHS last fall, calling the tenets of the order “discrete steps that have scalable, broad impact.”

During her tenure at DHS, after a three-year stint at Booz Hamilton, Manfra has held the positions of National Protection and Programs Directorate Assistant Secretary for the Office of Cybersecurity and Communications, the Senior Counselor for Cybersecurity to the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director for Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity on the White House National Security Council staff, the advisor for the Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity and Communications, and the Deputy Director for the Office of Emergency Communications. In the latter position, she led DHS's creation of the Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network.

She came to DHS well-prepared for the cybersecurity challenge, having served five years in the U.S. Army as a communications specialist and a military intelligence officer.