State Department employee phones hacked through NSO Group spyware: report
Trump administration eliminates top cyber post
The White House has decided to get rid of its top cyber policy adviser role, eliminating the policy position that aimed to help streamline the government's overall approach to cybersecurity policy across federal agencies.
"The National Security Council's cyber office already has two very capable Senior Directors. Moving forward, these Senior Directors will coordinate cyber matters and policy. As they sit six feet apart from one another, they will be able to coordinate in real time," said Robert Palladino, a spokesman for the National Security Council in a statement to The Hill on Tuesday.
"Today's actions continue an effort to empower National Security Council Senior Directors. Streamlining management will improve efficiency, reduce bureaucracy and increase accountability."
The news was first reported by Politico, which obtained an email detailing the move.
The news outlet had reported earlier that President Trump's new national security adviser, John Bolton, was looking to end the position.
"The role of cyber coordinator will end," Christine Samuelian, an aide to Bolton, reportedly said in the email to NSC staffers.
Citing a quote from Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 70, Samuelian said "eliminating another layer of bureaucracy delivers greater 'decision, activity, secrecy and dispatch.'"
Rob Joyce, the latest official to hold this position, left last week, joining a handful of other national security officials who have left the White House.
Joyce was on detail to the White House from the NSA, where he previously led an elite hacking group known as the Tailored Access Operations Unit.
He announced he would return to NSA last month.
"Rob Joyce, a career federal employee detailed to the National Security Council, has conveyed his intent to return to his home agency, the National Security Agency," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
Tom Bossert, who served as Trump's top homeland security aide, also resigned earlier this month. He had been the one to announce just last year that Joyce would be joining the counsel as its cybersecurity coordinator.
The departures of both Bossert and Joyce spurred concerns about the road ahead for the White House's cyber policymaking efforts.
"Certainly, there's no question that between Bossert's departure and Rob's departure that it's going to slow down policy development work and cause disruption," Michael Daniel, who served as cybersecurity coordinator under the Obama administration, told The Hill last month.
The report that the White House eliminated the cyber role triggered immediate blowback from Democrats on Capitol Hill.
"With cyber threats ever-changing and growing more sophisticated by the day, there is no logical reason to eliminate this senior position and reduce the already degraded level of cyber expertise at th White House," said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) in a statement.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Morgan Chalfant contributed.
Updated: 5:57 p.m.