After White House slashes cyber adviser role, lawmakers move to entrench the position

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Less than one day after the Trump administration announced it is eliminating its top cyber adviser post, lawmakers are trying to reinstate a cybersecurity official in the executive branch.

Reps. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) and Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) introduced legislation May 15 to reestablish a cyber advisory position in the executive branch. The bill would also create a National Office for Cyberspace within the executive office of the president. The cyber adviser would act as the director of that office.

The bill “would basically reinstate the cybersecurity coordinator position, however, it would give it also stronger policy and budgetary authority over our cyber strategy in how we can better protect the nation in cyberspace,” Langevin said in a May 16 exclusive interview with Federal News Radio.

The adviser position would be Senate-confirmed and be tasked with recommending security measures and budgets for federal agencies. The adviser would also coordinate issues relating to cyberspace across the government and centralize defense of the federal information structure in the event of a large-scale attack.

“This would be more of coordinating authority, basically sitting at the head and bringing everyone together to make sure everyone is on the same page in how we move forward in our cyber strategy,” Langevin said.

The National Office for Cyberspace would be tasked with collaborating with federal agencies, the private sector and international partners.

Langevin said the 2015 breach of the Office of Personnel Management is a perfect example for why the U.S. needs the office.

“OPM was asleep at the switch. They didn’t do enough to modernize their computer networks and clearly didn’t understand the value of what they were responsible for protecting. A cyber director with policy and budgetary authority could see that ahead of time and say, ‘OPM you are responsible for protecting this valuable data, you need to encrypt it, you need to update your computer systems,’ [the director] would prevent the bad thing from happening,” Langevin said.

The bill, so far, has 10 Democratic co-sponsors. Langevin said he is reaching across the aisle for Republican interest.

Langevin introduced this bill previously and said there was Republican support. He said he feels the bill is timely now given the elimination of the cyber adviser post.

POLITICO reported May 15 that the Trump administration was abolishing its cyber coordinator role on the suggestion of National Security Adviser John Bolton.

According to the article, the White House thinks eliminating the position would eliminate a layer of bureaucracy.

Langevin said he is disappointed in Bolton’s decision.

“I think that was a big mistake and a big step backward in better protecting the country in cyberspace. Over the years going back to the Clinton administration we’ve made steady progress in the Clinton years, in the George Bush administration and President Obama’s administration, even up until now in the Trump administration, moving forward in positive steps trying to protect the country in cyberspace and putting policies and procedures in place to do that. This is the first time in all those administrations we are taking a concrete step backward,” Langevin said.

The cyber adviser position was first created at the beginning of the Obama administration.