Jake Braun

Jake Braun, a senior lecturer at Harris Public Policy and executive director of Harris’ Cyber Policy Initiative, has joined the Biden-Harris administration. He was appointed by President Joe Biden as Senior Advisor to the United States Department of Homeland Security, where he will be focused on management, cyber security and information technology.

A leading cyber security expert, Braun previously served in the Obama White House as liaison to DHS and more recently served as a state director in the Biden campaign.

Harris Public Policy sat down with him to ask about his new role:

What can you tell us about your new position? 

I’ll act as a senior adviser to DHS where I’ll lead and coordinate activities related to cybersecurity, information technology, workforce, budgets and data. Most of these issues are coordinated through the Management Directorate, which acts as the “central nervous system” of the Department, where its more than 240,000 people, as well as processes and programs, are managed across DHS. This includes agencies from FEMA to the Coast Guard to TSA to Customs. Each one functions independently, but DHS is essential for operationalizing activities across agencies in support of national security.

What will you be focused on in the role? 

Much of my initial focus will be on building, protecting, and empowering our workforce. I’ll be helping to ensure that our people have everything they need to protect themselves and others from COVID-19, including access to vaccines, information, and supplies. Also, it’s important to note that there’s a 500,000 shortage of skilled cyber professionals in the US, which is an enormous number, and DHS feels that shortage in the same way that the private sector and other areas of the government do. We’re embarking on a very aggressive program to hire the best cyber security professionals in the world, which may sound mundane but is crucial to more effective cyber and broader national security. 

What are some of DHS’ main priorities right now? 

Better utilizing our data is one priority. I’m helping the Chief Information Officer pull together various data streams from across DHS to provide a clearer, more holistic picture of the Department’s major focus areas. As you might expect, one of those is helping FEMA coordinate vaccinations and other matters of COVID-response where it’s playing a role. Another is leveraging data to reunite the families that had been previously separated at the US-Mexico border. And, of course, DHS is spending time understanding and dealing with the ramifications of the SolarWinds cyberattack last year, which had a significant impact on the federal government.

How’s the transition been?

I was just sworn in last week, and it’s already been a whirlwind. With COVID-19 naturally causing disruptions for workflow, a change in administration from one party to the other, the SolarWinds cyberattack, and more, it’s a bit of a perfect storm. Then you’ve got the need for DHS to coordinate response to really important priorities – from helping FEMA coordinate vaccinations and COVID-19 response to helping locate the families that had been separated at the border. The Coast Guard even managed to save 300 turtles the other day – the work of DHS doesn’t stop, and every day is different. 

Can students at Harris get involved?

Yes, we’ll be hiring a number of interns. This could be a great opportunity for Harris students interested in national security. Plus, these internships enable the student to receive a security clearance, which is critical for anyone eager to build their career in national security or related fields. You can reach out to pathwaysprogram@hq.dhs.gov for more information.