Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s creation of a new bureau for cyber security diplomacy efforts within the Department of State is “misguided” because it essentially trades one silo for another rather than position it to enable cross-cutting, “holistic” approaches to international cyber security, leading experts in Congress on cyber security said in a joint statement on Monday.
“We are concerned that the State Department has moved forward with a misguided cyberspace reorganization in the waning days of the Trump administration despite objections from Congressional leaders,” says the statement by Sens. Angus King (I-Maine) and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), and Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and James Langevin (D-R.I.). All four are members of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission—co-chaired by Gallagher and King—which last year in a report made a bevy of recommendations aimed at strengthening the nation’s cyber security posture.
“In our report, we emphasize the need for a greater emphasis on international cyber policy at State,” the congressional officials say. “However, unlike the bipartisan Cyber Diplomacy Act, the State Department’s proposed Bureau will reinforce existing silos and hinder the development of a holistic strategy to promote cyberspace stability on the international stage. We urge President-elect Biden to pause this reorganization when he takes office in two weeks and work with Congress to enact meaningful reform and protect our country in cyberspace.”
Pompeo last Thursday announced the creation of the Bureau of Cyberspace Security and Emerging Technologies (CSET) to “lead U.S. government diplomatic efforts on a wide range of international cyberspace security and emerging technology issues.”
Pompeo’s creation of the new bureau elevates the cyber diplomacy functions, which were housed within the department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs. It also moves them from the Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and Environment, to the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security.
So, as part of the State Department focused on economic security cyber security, diplomacy efforts had a seat at the table for economic and Internet issues such as sanctioning Chinese telecommunications company Huawei, but when it came to other national security issues these officials were not invited to participate, a congressional aide told Defense Daily. With the new arrangement, the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security will benefit from the new bureau but other relevant parts of the department dealing with economic security, civil and human rights, and criminal activity won’t, the official said.
Both the Cyber Diplomacy Act and the Cyberspace Solarium Commission’s recommendations would position the State Department’s cyber diplomatic efforts so that they can influence policies and diplomacy across the enterprise, the aide said. One solution would be to position the new bureau within the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, which touches on all the work the department does, the aide said.