Senate Dems push to restore White House cyber chief

Nineteen Democratic senators urged National Security Advisor John Bolton to reconsider his decision to eliminate the national cybersecurity coordinator post.

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Nineteen Democratic senators are urging the White House to restore the recently abolished national cybersecurity coordinator post.

Shortly after the April departure of Rob Joyce, who'd held the position since March 2017, National Security Advisor John Bolton eliminated the position altogether, a move that drew immediate criticism from former government officials and cybersecurity experts.

The letter was initiated by Sen. Amy Klochubar (D-Minn.) and joined by other Democrats including defense and cybersecurity leaders Ron Wyden (Ore.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and Mark Warner (Va.).

"While we recognize the importance of streamlining positions, we are concerned the decision to eliminate this role will lead to a lack of unified focus against cyber threats," the senators wrote, pointing to the Russian attempts to hack into voting systems. "Russia's actions have set the stage to embolden other foreign adversaries."

The cybersecurity coordinator position was created in 2001 under the Bush administration, with the charge of working across agency lines to develop a unified digital security strategy. A December 2016 report commissioned under President Barack Obama recommended elevating the position to an assistant to the president position "on par with the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism."

"Our country's cybersecurity should be a top priority; therefore, it is critically important that the U.S. government present a unified front in defending against cyberattacks," the senators write. "Eliminating the Cybersecurity Coordinator role keeps us from presenting that unified front and does nothing to deter our enemies from attacking us again. Instead, it would represent a step in the wrong direction."

One Republican has also raised concern about the elimination of the position. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) co-signed a letter with Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) May 25 expressing the need for a cybersecurity coordinator and a White House-issued cybersecurity strategy to President Donald Trump.

On the House side, 16 Democrats are sponsoring a bill that would establish a "National Office for Cyberspace" within the White House and create a presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed director-level position.