Mrs. Rosemary Wenchel
October 30, 1949 – May 11, 2019

Mrs. Rosemary Wenchel, a pioneer in U.S. cyberspace operations for the U.S. Navy, Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security, passed away on May 11, 2019.

Mrs. Wenchel brought together innovators and championed transformation of U.S. cyber warfare capabilities, leading research and development to position U.S. forces for success in the emerging electronic battleground. Along the way she embraced the art of mentoring young scientists and engineers from military, civilian, and academic communities. Mrs. Wenchel’s colleagues considered her an accomplished technical mind, but also a humble leader who always kept the big picture in mind. Positive and upbeat, she inspired everyone around her to be kind, work hard, and innovate.

Born in Fort Monmouth, NJ, in 1949, to Philip and Madeline Swanton, the family moved to Maryland when she was a child, where she grew up with her younger sister, Suzan. She was a student at the University of Maryland when she met George Wenchel, whom she wed in 1969. She then spent two decades traveling the world with George, a Naval Officer, and raising their two sons. During that time, she completed her studies at Old Dominion University, graduating first in her class. Never passing up an opportunity to be involved in her children’s lives or to help others, Mrs. Wenchel spent her time running school carnivals, volunteering as a class parent, and working with the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society.

As her children got older, Mrs. Wenchel returned to the workforce, embarking on a 30-year career in public service with the Navy, Department of Defense, and Department of Homeland Security. To prepare herself she took computer science classes, eventually earning a Masters degree in information technology from the University of Maryland. Mrs. Wenchel started off as an entry-level computer systems programmer with the Naval Security Group, ultimately rising to the Senior Executive Service and Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity at DHS.

She served the Naval Information Warfare Activity in multiple roles between 1995 and 2005, culminating in her assignment to Chief Scientist. She left civilian service with the Navy to join the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, where she directed cyber capabilities.

Mrs. Wenchel’s peers saw her as a visionary, clearly able to see the vital importance of cyberspace and the information environment to 21st-century military operations. At DoD, she led the way in defining how military intelligence would enable global cyberspace operations, first by ensuring deployed combat forces could securely access intelligence and coordination systems no matter their location, then by working to improve how commanders used technology to sense the battlespace and prioritize operations. She led the primary DoD Information Operations Science and Technology Research Program, guided by her deep knowledge of commercial capabilities and best practices, as well as what colleagues said was zero tolerance for resistance to innovation. She played a significant role in the creation of the United States Cyber Command and the government effort to secure the United States in cyberspace.

In 2012, she joined DHS and served in multiple key cybersecurity leadership positions, eventually becoming the first Assistant Secretary for Cyber, Infrastructure & Resilience Policy, relentlessly working to ensure the US cyber workforce had the cutting technology and tools needed to succeed.

After four years with DHS, Mrs. Wenchel returned to the Navy as a Penn State University, Applied Research Lab, Senior Research Fellow and the Chief Technology Officer at the Navy Cyber Development Warfare Group, where she served until her passing. She considered her time with the Navy and NCWDG her favorite and most fulfilling times in her career.

In her personal life, she was well known for the beautiful Peonies, Azaleas and Camellias in her garden, traveling with her family, and playing with her grandchildren. She maintained decades-long friendships stemming from her time traveling with the Navy, and often spent time in Charleston, SC, where she and George had a second home. Mrs. Wenchel is survived by her loving husband, George, their son Adam and his wife Erin, their son Seth and his wife Sarah, and three grandchildren, Josephine, Heath, and Myles.