Chris Cleary, the Department of the Navy’s principal cyber advisor, will leave federal service after more than four years in November.
The DoN brought in Cleary in 2019 through the highly-qualified expert authority as the Navy’s chief information security officer and promoted him in 2020 as the first principal cyber advisor. The promotion came via a term-limited senior executive service (SES) member. That three-year term ends on Nov. 21.
“The term couldn’t be extended. The rules say it cannot be extended or renewed,” Cleary said in an interview with Federal News Network. “I have no sour grapes. It’s just end of a term. I liked what I was doing and would welcome the opportunity to come back at some point. My desire is to see the position grow and however I can support the Navy and the Defense Department; that is my intention to do so in the private sector.”
Cleary said he is unsure what comes next, probably some time off and then a job back in the private sector.
Cleary said it’s unclear who will be acting once he leaves. Josh Reiter is the deputy principal cyber advisor, but for assorted bureaucratic reasons, he may not be able to step into an acting role.
Cleary joined the DoN in 2019 after spending his career in and out of federal service. He is a graduate of the Naval Academy and a retired Naval Reserve Officer who served 16 of 24 years on active duty in a variety of leadership roles.
After retiring from the Navy, he worked in a variety of positions in industry with Verizon, Parsons, L3 Communications, Tenable and Leidos. He also worked in several civilian roles for DoD, including for the U.S. Cyber Command.
“This is the best job I’ve ever had. I loved the principal cyber position. It wasn’t easy; there has been hard days and it’s been frustrating at times, but it’s the best job I’ve ever had,” he said.
DefenseScoop first reported Cleary’s term ending.
During his time as a principal cyber advisor, Cleary said he is most proud of his work around the Navy’s cyberspace superiority vision released in October 2022.
“We designed the first vision document to be just that: to be short, to be consumed very quickly. And to kind of be the North Star for the larger strategy that we’ll be following, probably after the new year that is nested along all the other higher level guidance. We’ve seen a National Defense Strategy has been released, there’s a soon-to-be-released presidential cyber strategy, followed by the Office of Secretary of Defense cyber strategy, and then the Department of the Navy will be releasing a strategy right behind it. Which is already drafted and follows along the themes and gets into a lot more detail of the three core principles that we’re trying to strive for, which is the secure, survive, strike,” Cleary said in December during an interview on the Federal Drive.
“I anticipate I will be somewhere in federal ecosystem to advocate and support this cyber mission,” Cleary said. “I can’t support the Navy or DoD directly, but I can be in the ecosystem of the federal government supporting all of this.”