John Bolton Axes Cyber Coordinator Role — That’s A Cause For Concern

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Just a month ago, the White House pushed out the cyber czar, Tom Bossert. Then earlier this month, Trump’s first cyberczar, Robert Joyce, departed as well.

National Security Adviser John Bolton has decided to ax a top cybersecurity and digital warfare policy role, according to Politico. He couldn’t have picked a worse time to do so.

“The role of cyber coordinator will end,” Bolton aide Christine Samuelian told staff, adding the move will help “streamline authority” within the National Security Council.

Former President Barack Obama created the role of cyber coordinator, often called the “cyber czar” in 2009 to handle the U.S. government’s cybersecurity efforts at a time of growing risk of cyber attacks from China, Russia and Iran.

However, just a month ago, the White House pushed out the cyber czar, Tom Bossert. Then earlier this month, Trump’s first cyber coordinator, Robert Joyce, departed as well and returned to the National Security Agency.  Now, instead of filling the position, the Trump administration has announced the role of cyber coordinator will remain unfulfilled.

Last year, Trump’s State Department also eliminated a similar role.

Earlier this year, Sens. Angus King (I-ME) and James Lankford (R-OK) lambasted senior intelligence officials over a lack of proper guidelines to respond to cyber threats and a person who would advise the president on such issues.

Since its inception, Obama had difficulty in filling the position, which reported to both the National Economic Council and the National Security Council. In the final report, Obama’s cybersecurity commission suggested the cyber coordinator should answer directly to the president. Now that the position is eliminated, its duties will be performed by two senior directors of the NatSec cyber team.

However, critics have expressed concerns over the decision.

“With no one at the helm at the White House to manage this process, I worry about which countries will step in,” said Megan Stifel, former NSC director for international cyber policy.

 

“It’s frankly mindboggling that the Trump Administration has eliminated the top White House official responsible for a whole-of-government cyber strategy, at a time when the cyber threat to our nation is greater than ever,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D - Virginia), the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “Our adversaries are investing heavily in 21st century cyber warfare capabilities, and if we only view national security through a conventional 20th century lens, we’re going to find ourselves unable to respond to increasingly asymmetric cyber threats down the road.”

The threat of cyberattacks has only increased in recent years. In February, the heads of FBI, NSA and CIA all confirmed that Russia would continue trying to interfere in the democracy of the United States.

A year ago, North Korea also launched WannaCry ransomware which has existed and thrived online. And now, that the United States has withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal, experts warn the country could also become a target of cyberattacks by the Middle East country.

Without a sophisticated cybersecurity policy in place, the United States could open itself to immeasurable cyber threats.

Banner/Thumbnail credit: REUTERS/Brian Snyder

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