Lawmakers Take Another Shot at Transforming Trump Cyber Policy

Orhan Cam/

Proposed amendments to the Senate’s defense authorization bill would reinstate the White House cyber coordinator and require a White House cyber strategy.

Senate lawmakers are taking another stab at shaping the Trump administration’s cyber policy, piling cyber amendments that failed in the House onto the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act.

One such amendment, authored by Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., would require President Donald Trump to appoint a White House cybersecurity coordinator, reversing a move by National Security Adviser John Bolton who removed the role in May.

A similar amendment from Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., didn’t make it into the House version of the bill, which passed that chamber May 24.

Another Senate amendment from Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., would require the Trump administration to publish an extensive cyber strategy, including outlining possible repercussions for adversary cyber strikes targeting the United States.

The Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations published numerous such strategies but congressional hawks typically criticized them for lacking specificity.

A third amendment would require additional Pentagon assistance to help small defense manufacturers protect against cyber threats.

The Senate is attempting to proceed to debate on the must-pass defense policy bill this week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the bill “the top item on our to-do list,” in a floor speech Monday.

The underlying bill includes numerous cyber provisions, including imposing Homeland Security Department cyber directives on the Pentagon and military services.

The underlying Senate bill would also bar the Chinese tech firms Huawei and ZTE from military contracts and create a smoother path for similar contracting bans made on national security grounds. U.S. intelligence firms have warned the Chinese government could use Huawei and ZTE as spying tools.

Senators are trying to include some full bills as NDAA amendments.

Sens. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., tacked their election security bill on as an amendment. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., similarly tacked on legislation that would require the federal government to only purchase internet-connected devices that meet certain security requirements.

Warner also introduced a string of amendments Monday mandating faster processing for security clearances and requiring more transparency from federal agencies about how much they spend on security clearances each year.

Senators were still filing amendments Monday afternoon, many of which would mandate studies or reports on growing the Defense Department’s cyber workforce and hacks targeting Defense Department personnel.