Bipartisan Lawmakers Agree on Centralized Cybersecurity Position

July 17, 2020 Updated: July 17, 2020

Lawmakers on the Cyberspace Solarium Commission advised the members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to reinstate the national cybersecurity coordinator position by passing  H.R. 7331, the National Cyber Director Act.

This role was filled beginning with George W. Bush’s presidency, until former national security adviser John Bolton eliminated the position in 2018 as part of an effort to reduce the federal bureaucracy.

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Oversight Committee, held a hearing on Wednesday to review the benefits of reinstating the position. In her opening remarks, Maloney said the United States needs to be prepared for all emerging cyber threats.

“A challenge as complex and pervasive as cybersecurity requires that our government be strategic, organized, and ready,” she said. “How can we exercise smart, decisive foresight to the best of our ability today to ensure we are a nation prepared tomorrow?” she added.

At present, multiple federal agencies are responsible for combating the constantly changing threats to the U.S. cybersecurity.  One of the main recommendations of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, established in 2019, is “the creation of the National Cyber Director in the Executive Office of the President to streamline the federal government’s response to a cyberattack across agencies.”

Ranking Member Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) said increased use of the internet has created new cyber weaknesses for malicious actors to take advantage of and requires greater coordination with industry and all levels of government.

But Comer questioned whether filling the cyber coordinator role would make America safer from cyberattacks, or just restore a layer of bureaucracy that Bolton removed.

“Will the national cyber director utilize the existing cyber leadership and expertise in our government, or do we risk making that bureaucratic pie bigger and creating duplicating functions?” Comer said. “Will a national cyber director add value to this nation’s cybersecurity infrastructure? Or should we align and support systems already in place?”

Despite this type of concern, the Cyberspace Solarium Commission has made reinstating the cyber director one of their top priorities.

“The creation of a single focal point in the White House [is] the least bureaucratic, the least onerous, and the most efficient of all possible options,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), a co-chair on the commission.

“The creation of a National Cyber director … is an idea that is not only reasonable but necessary and long overdue given the world in which we live,” said National Security Subcommittee Chair Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.).

Jamil N. Jaffer, founder and executive director of the National Security Institute at George Mason University, testified that the Chinese Communist Party’s cyber warfare costs the United States billions of dollars each year.

“It is no overstatement to say that, for all practical intents and purposes, we are at war in cyberspace.  And, unfortunately, as a nation we still remain woefully underprepared to deal with this ongoing and serious conflict,” said Jaffer.