House panel schedules hearing on cyber diplomacy efforts

House panel schedules hearing on cyber diplomacy efforts
© Greg Nash

A key House panel has scheduled a hearing to explore the U.S. government’s cyber diplomacy efforts after the State Department shuttered a stand-alone office responsible for engaging with other nations on cybersecurity policy.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceFormer GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lawmakers propose banning shark fin trade Bottom Line MORE (R-Calif.) on Wednesday announced the hearing for next week to “explore foreign threats to the internet and the important role diplomacy plays in addressing them.”

Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonPompeo jokes he'll be secretary of State until Trump 'tweets me out of office' Heather Nauert withdraws her name from consideration for UN ambassador job Trump administration’s top European diplomat to resign in February MORE’s decision to close the Office of Cybersecurity Coordinator has been met with broad criticism in Congress. Tillerson notified Congress last August that he would shuffle the office’s responsibilities under a bureau focused on economic and business affairs.

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Earlier this month, House lawmakers passed legislation sponsored by Royce that would restore an office at State to handle cyber diplomacy efforts that would be led by an official with the rank of ambassador.

Tillerson’s move resulted in the elimination of the cybersecurity coordinator position, which was held by Chris Painter for more than six years. Painter led the federal government’s efforts promoting U.S. cybersecurity interests abroad. 

Painter, who left his position at the end of July, will appear at the Foreign Affairs hearing next week, alongside other nongovernment experts.

“Authoritarian regimes and foreign actors are working overtime to impose more control online, including through censorship,” Royce said in a statement Wednesday. “These destructive efforts to weaponize the internet undermine America’s foreign policy and security, as well as our economy.” 

“As Americans become more and more connected with digital technology, the United States must ensure the internet remains open, reliable and secure,” Royce said.

The hearing is slated for Tuesday.