Kirstjen M. Nielsen
Advisor at Carbyne
Kirstjen M. Nielsen is an internationally recognized expert and proven leader on security issues, including enterprise risk, resiliency, cybersecurity, and emerging threats. She has over two decades of experience as an attorney, public servant, successful entrepreneur and public speaker. In December 2017, Ms. Nielsen was sworn in as the sixth Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), America’s third-largest cabinet agency, where she oversaw 240,000 law enforcement, civilian, and military employees and a $70 billion annual budget. During her tenure, Secretary Nielsen drove major organizational change at DHS to protect the nation against evolving threats and better equip frontline defenders. For example, she worked with Congress to create the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency— America’s premier civilian cybersecurity agency—and established the Office of Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction to thwart chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats. Secretary Nielsen also put in place sweeping new policies to safeguard the homeland, including: overhauling the Department’s cybersecurity posture to harden U.S. digital defenses and increasing consequences for malicious cyber actors—actions which prevented the hacking of the 2018 elections; implementing historic measures to secure U.S. borders, countering human smuggling, staunching the flow of illicit drugs, and pursuing transnational criminals; responding decisively to record-breaking natural disasters and modernizing America’s approach to disaster response; launching sophisticated efforts to block terrorists from infiltrating the United States; and crafting new legislative authorities to protect civilians against weaponized drones and chemical / biological weapons. Prior to her role as DHS Secretary, Ms. Nielsen served as the White House Principal Deputy Chief of Staff, during which time she was responsible for advising the President of the United States on all policy, interagency, state, local, and international matters across various stakeholder groups. She also served previously as DHS Chief of Staff, functioning as the principal advisor to the Secretary on all homeland risk, policy, and operational issues. In the private sector, Ms. Nielsen has worked as an award-winning risk and policy consultant. She advised agencies, private sector companies, international organizations, and NGOs on risk posture and how to build resiliency, develop crisis plans, understand complex policy environments, and mitigate hazards. From 2012 to 2016, she was the President of Sunesis Consulting, a security management firm she founded, and prior to that was the General Counsel and President of the Homeland Security and Private Sector Preparedness practice at Civitas Group, a strategic advisory and investment firm. In 2004, Ms. Nielsen was commissioned by President Bush to serve as Special Assistant to the President for Prevention, Preparedness, and Response at the White House, where she was in charge of key aspects of U.S. Government homeland security policy and oversaw the response to 300+ disasters and national emergencies. After the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001, Ms. Nielsen helped stand up the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), where she established and led the Offices of Legislative Policy and Government Affairs. Before her work at TSA, she practiced corporate transactional law for Haynes and Boone LLP and worked for U.S. Senator Connie Mack III. Today, as the President and Founder of her newest venture, Lighthouse Strategies, Ms. Nielsen advises investors and technology companies—from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies— on strategy, risk, and public policy. She is currently a Member of the President’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council, the U.S. Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board, Australia’s Cybersecurity Advisory Board, World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Centre for Cybersecurity Advisory Board and the bipartisan Homeland Security Experts Group. Ms. Nielsen has served as the Chair of the WEF’s Global Agenda Council on Risk and Resilience, a Senior Fellow at the George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, a civilian expert at NATO, a Founding Member of a key East-West Institute initiative, and a Safety and Security Advisory Board Member for the Center for Naval Analysis. She holds a B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and a J.D. from the University of Virginia’s School of Law.