State Dept Gets Dedicated Cybersecurity Bureau in Newly Proposed Bill

A bipartisan measure that would give U.S. cybersecurity a more prominent presence within the State Department and on the international stage has been approved in the House.

The bipartisan Cyber Diplomacy Act, sponsored by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, would establish a Bureau of International Cyberspace Policy, the head of which will have the rank and status of ambassador as appointed by the President and affirmed by the Senate. Co-sponsors include Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), who chairs the committee, Jim Langevin (D-RI), Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), and Bill Keating (D-MA).

U.S. Department of State: Where Cybersecurity Fits In

The legislation previously passed the House in the last Congress but never came up for a floor vote in the Senate. The focus on cybersecurity at the State Department is not new, whether concerning international diplomacy on cyber issues or internal leadership or both. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo previously announced the Bureau of Cybersecurity and Emerging Technology just days before leadership transitioned to the Biden Administration. But it was roundly criticized by lawmakers who said at the time that it would retain the security silos that had hampered promoting “cyberspace stability on the international stage.”

“This feels long overdue,” McCaul said. “To me, it is the last piece in terms of our cyber role in the federal government, now taking it to the international stage with our allies around the world.” Meeks said reasserting American leadership on a variety of issues is a priority. “I can’t think of any issue that is more timely than ensuring American leadership is prepared to confront the growing national security challenge in cyberspace,” he said. (via The Hill)

The Bureau’s head will serve as the principal cyberspace policy official within the senior management of the State Department and as the advisor to the Secretary of State for cyberspace issues. The ambassador will be tasked with leading the agency’s diplomatic cyberspace efforts, including efforts relating to international cybersecurity, Internet access, Internet freedom, digital economy, cyber crime, deterrence and international responses to cyber threats, among a lengthy list of additional duties, according to the bill.

U.S. Department of State: Influencing Global Cyber Relations?

After a year after the Act becomes law, the President, along with the Secretary of State and other federal agencies, will have to come up with a strategy for how the U.S. will engage with foreign governments on “responsible state behavior” in cyberspace, according to the bill. The Act also asks the President to list all countries sponsoring bad actors to undermine cybersecurity, making specific reference to North Korea.

The measure passed the House in the wake of the SolarWinds Orion cyberattack and the Microsoft Exchange Server Hafnium attacks.

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