The Central Intelligence Agency recently tapped La’Naia J. Jones, a veteran cybersecurity leader in the U.S. spy community, to be its new chief information officer.
“We are delighted by the appointment of La’Naia J. Jones as the Agency’s new Chief Information Officer and Director of the Information Technology Enterprise within the Directorate of Digital Innovation,” CIA Deputy Press Secretary Luis Rossello said in a statement.
Jones brings a “wealth of experience in information technology and innovation in the national security sphere” to the post, he added. “We look forward to her leadership in leveraging emerging digital technology to advance our mission.”
Jones, who replaced Juliane Gallina and whose appointment was not publicly announced, began work in late February.
She most recently served as the National Security Agency’s deputy CIO — where she oversaw IT investments and acquisition efforts — and as the electronic spy agency’s Information Sharing and Safeguarding Executive. Prior to the NSA, Jones served as acting CIO for the U.S. clandestine community within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, working with CIOs and other senior leaders across the community’s 18 agencies.
Before that, she was the deputy CIO for the intelligence community. Jones also worked as the chief of Transformation and Transition for a global IT service provider within the Defense Department prior to her selection.
She graduated with a bachelor of science degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and received a master of science degree in Technology Management from the University of Maryland University College.
Jones joins the CIA at a time when the organization is working to keep pace with technological changes in order to better develop and employ its own espionage capabilities, including detecting cyber threats from adversaries like Russia and China.
During his confirmation hearing last year, now-CIA Director Williams Burns said the SolarWinds breach — which the U.S. has been attributed to the Russian government — should serve as a warning to the federal government and the country’s national security apparatus about such dangers.
“If this is a harsh wakeup call, then I think it’s essential for the CIA to work even harder to develop capabilities to help detect these kinds of attacks when they come from foreign players,” he said.
Burns stressed the importance of technology again last week during the Senate Intelligence Committee’s annual hearing on the greatest threats to U.S. national security.
“Nothing is going to matter more to the future of the CIA and, I think, the U.S. intelligence community more broadly than our ability to compete technologically. It’s the main arena… for competition with China,” he said, noting the CIA last year created a mission center to focus on foreign technological development and another on Beijing and established the agency’s first chief technology officer.
Together, the moves reflect “the enormously high priority that we will continue to attest to that set of issues,” according to Burns.