Senate confirms first-ever cyber ambassador
The Senate on Thursday unanimously confirmed Nathaniel Fick to head the State Department’s new cyber bureau.
Fick will be the bureau’s first-ever ambassador-at-large following its launch in April. The bureau was established to deal with international issues related to cyber and emerging technologies.
It has three policy units: international cyberspace security, digital freedom, and international information and communications policy.
“Today, with the confirmation of Cape Elizabeth’s Nate Fick, the United States has taken a historic, long overdue step to address our rapidly-changing cyber environment,” said Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) in a statement.
“Our country has lagged behind in shaping policies beyond our shores to defend us in this war without borders. I hope that ends today,” he added.
During his confirmation hearing last month, Fick vowed to establish a culture within his bureau and the entire agency in which expertise in cyber and digital technologies is a must. He also promised to focus on foreign threats, including Russian cyberattacks and the U.S.’s digital competition with China.
“Countries such as the People’s Republic of China and Russia have a very different vision for cyberspace and the use of digital technologies, which is why American leadership matters in this arena,” Fick said at the hearing.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), however, raised concerns there are too many cyber heads within the federal government and no clear lines separating their responsibilities.
“What I’m concerned about is that we have overlapping responsibilities and authorities with regard to our cyber defense,” Portman said.
“We seem to keep adding more and more top cybersecurity positions to our government,” he added.
Fick assured the senator that his role would fill an important gap within the government, adding that other key institutions, including the White House and the Department of Defense, have “a strong presence in cyberspace” and that the same is needed within the State Department.
“I believe that diplomacy should be our tool of first resort,” Fick said, adding that if confirmed to lead the bureau he would create clear lines of responsibility.
Fick was previously the general manager of the tech firm Elastic. Prior to that, he was the CEO of Endgame, a cybersecurity software company. Fick also served in the Marine Corps, with combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.