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Friday, May 18, 2018

Langevin pushes back against White House plan to downgrade national cybersecurity efforts

White House needs to be serious about protecting the country from cyber-attack

iran_deal_comicCongressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) introduced a bill to enhance cybersecurity collaboration across the federal government by creating a permanent director of cybersecurity policy in the White House.

Recent news reports indicate that President Trump has eliminated the role of special assistant to the President and cybersecurity coordinator at the urging of National Security Advisor John Bolton. Langevin and Lieu’s bill, the Executive Cyberspace Coordination Act, would create a cyber advisory position by consolidating cybersecurity policy responsibilities in a National Office for Cyberspace in the Executive Office of the President.

“We have had three excellent cybersecurity coordinators since the late Howard Schmidt originated the position. It is an enormous step backwards to deemphasize the importance of this growing domain within the White House,” said Congressman Langevin, the co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus. 
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“We need a designated expert to harmonize cyber policy across the many agencies in government with responsibility in this space. We also need clear communication of Administration positions on cybersecurity challenges, whether during major incidents or when establishing norms of responsible state behavior in cyberspace. I’m proud to work with Congressman Lieu to not only reinstitute this cyber coordinator position, but also enhance the role’s power to make government more effective.”

“The decision to eliminate the top White House cyber policy role is outrageous, especially given that we’re facing more hostile threats from foreign adversaries than ever before,” said Congressman Lieu. 

“This move impedes our country’s strategic efforts to counter cybersecurity threats against our country. Fortunately, our bill will fill in those holes in government cybersecurity oversight by creating a National Office for Cyberspace in the White House. A coordinated effort to keep our information systems safe is paramount if we want to counter the cyber threats posed by foes like Russia, Iran and China. To do anything less is a direct threat to national security. I am grateful to Congressman Langevin for his leadership on this critical issue.”

In addition to creating the National Office for Cyberspace, the bill would establish a Senate-confirmed director of the office with responsibility for recommending security measures and budgets for federal agencies, coordinating issues relating to cyberspace across the government while promoting civil liberties, and centralizing defense of federal information infrastructure in the event of a large-scale attack. 

Congressman Langevin has advocated for increased oversight of federal cybersecurity activities since he served as co-chair of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency, and the bill is based on recommendations from the Commission’s report that have yet to be implemented.

President Obama originated the role of special assistant to the President and cybersecurity coordinator in 2009 with the appointment of longtime civil servant and cybersecurity luminary Howard Schmidt. He was succeeded by Michael Daniel in 2012. President Trump’s cybersecurity coordinator, Rob Joyce, announced in April that he would be returning to the National Security Agency this month.

This legislation is cosponsored by Langevin and Lieu’s colleagues, Representatives Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Denny Heck (D-WA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Bobby Rush (D-IL), and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD).