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Week ahead in cyber: Dems look to block State Department shakeup

Week ahead in cyber: Dems look to block State Department shakeup
© Keren Carrion

The House and Senate are returning to Washington after their month-long summer recess and will face a number of cybersecurity issues on their docket.

There have been a series of cyber shake-ups and lawmakers are eager to weigh in.

High on the list is Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonBiden's is not a leaky ship of state — not yet With salami-slicing and swarming tactics, China's aggression continues Lawmakers to roll out legislation reorganizing State cyber office MORE's plans to axe the State Department's office handling issues dealing with cybersecurity and diplomacy.

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The State Office of the Coordinator of Cyber Issues (S/CCI) was one of several envoys and offices Tillerson told Congress in August he planned to close or consolidate.

"I believe that the Department will be able to better execute its mission by integrating certain envoys and special representative offices within the regional and functional bureaus, and eliminating those that have accomplished or outlived their original purpose," Tillerson wrote.

There had been rumors that Tillerson had plans to revamp State's cyber work since mid-July, when the department's top cyber diplomat resigned from his post. But Tiller's August letter was the first public hint of how he would implement the plan and it sparked an uproar.

Democrats are vowing to fight the move.

Last week, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) introduced legislation to a spending bill that would block Tillerson from eliminating the cyber office.

It would prevent State from using funds to close or reorganize the cyber office, or divert funds for cyber efforts to other agencies.

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Also hovering over the coming week will be the ongoing probes into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and potential collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign. There were a number of key developments over the recess.

Donald TrumpDonald TrumpHouse votes to condemn Chinese government over Hong Kong Former Vice President Walter Mondale dies at age 93 White House readies for Chauvin verdict MORE Jr. has scheduled a private interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee, but the date has not been publicly released.

Investigators have also been raising pressure on Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. CNN reported Tuesday that special counsel Robert Mueller has subpoenaed Manafort and his attorney. Manafort's financial dealings have been under scrutiny but he hasn't yet been accused of any wrongdoing.

The last week also saw new evidence that the Trump Organization was pursuing a major real estate deal in Moscow during the campaign, though it is unclear if Trump was aware of the negotiations. A top Trump lawyer also asked for help with the deal from a Kremlin spokesperson.

Over the recess, Trump also elevated Cyber Command to it's own combatant command – possibly the first step in its break from the NSA.

Lawmakers have backed elevating Cyber Command, but have been divided over whether to split if off entirely from the NSA.

Lawmakers returning to Washington will also be grappling with the fallout from a slew of resignations from Trump's infrastructure security council. The panel was tasked with advising the president on the security of critical infrastructure, including information systems.

One hearing is on the docket in the week ahead.

The House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity and Infrastructure will meet on Thursday for a hearing on the "Challenges of Recruiting and Retaining a Cybersecurity Workforce."

 

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