Lawmakers introduce legislation to establish national cybersecurity director

Lawmakers introduce legislation to establish national cybersecurity director
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A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Thursday introduced legislation in the House that would establish a “national cybersecurity director” to lead government efforts on cybersecurity.

The National Cyber Director Act would establish the position within the White House, with the director meant to serve as the president’s key adviser on cybersecurity and other emerging technology issues. 

The individual filling the position would be nominated by the president and then Senate-confirmed, and would be responsible for overseeing the creation and implementation of a national cybersecurity strategy to address security risks to the U.S. in cyberspace. 

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The position would take over many of the responsibilities of the White House cybersecurity coordinator, a position that was eliminated in 2018 by former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonTrump envoy says US ready to talk to North Korea but rebukes Pyongyang counterpart Why Trump can't make up his mind on China The benefits of American disinterest in world affairs MORE following the departure of former cybersecurity coordinator Rob Joyce. 

The creation of a national cyber director was one of the key recommendations made by the Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC) as part of its report rolled out in March on how to protect the nation from cybersecurity threats. The CSC was established by Congress and is made up of members of Congress, top federal officials and industry representatives. 

Rep. Mike GallagherMichael (Mike) John GallagherHillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill banning federal government use of facial recognition tech | House lawmakers roll out legislation to establish national cyber director | Top federal IT official to step down Lawmakers introduce legislation to establish national cybersecurity director House Republican accuses Facebook, Twitter, YouTube of not doing enough to combat Chinese propaganda MORE (R-Wis.), the co-chairman of the CSC, and CSC member Rep. Jim LangevinJames (Jim) R. LangevinForeign cyber criminals take aim at Americans working from home Hillicon Valley: Democrats introduce bill banning federal government use of facial recognition tech | House lawmakers roll out legislation to establish national cyber director | Top federal IT official to step down Lawmakers introduce legislation to establish national cybersecurity director MORE (D-R.I.) are among the sponsors of the bill.  

Langevin said in a statement that “complicated” cybersecurity policy necessitates a national leader on the issue. 

“Only within the White House can we cohesively develop and implement a truly whole-of-nation cyber strategy that is commensurate with the threats we face,” Langevin said. “By establishing a National Cyber Director with the policy and budgetary authority to reach across government, we can better address cybersecurity vulnerabilities and gaps holistically and prevent catastrophic cyber incidents.”

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Gallagher said separately that the COVID-19 pandemic had demonstrated the need to be prepared to face a debilitating cyberattack that could cause similar societal disruptions. 

"The coronavirus has elevated the importance of cyber infrastructure and demonstrated how incredibly disruptive a major cyberattack could be," Gallagher said. "But while we are woefully unprepared for a cyber calamity, there is still time to right the ship."

Other sponsors include Rep. John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoDemocrats release bilingual ads on police reform bill Lawmakers introduce legislation to establish national cybersecurity director Progressives riding high as votes tabulated in NY, Kentucky MORE (R-N.Y.), the ranking member on the House Homeland Security’s cybersecurity subcommittee, House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyNew York candidates left on hold as primary results trickle in New Jersey incumbents steamroll progressive challengers in primaries Nurses union warns of shortage in protective gear amid new coronavirus surge MORE (D-N.Y.), Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Key impeachment witness retires | Duckworth presses for information | Subpanel advances defense measure | Democrats press for end to military transgender ban Karen Bass's star rises after leading police reform push The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - States are pausing reopening MORE (Texas), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee’s subcommittee on intelligence modernization and readiness, and Rep. Dutch RuppersbergerCharles (Dutch) Albert RuppersbergerLawmakers introduce legislation to establish national cybersecurity director OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Joint Chiefs chairman says he regrets participating in Trump photo-op | GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op | Senate panel approves 0B defense policy bill Naval Academy board chair calls for Confederate names to be removed from school MORE (D-Md.).

“At the national level, we need a coordinated approach to cybersecurity that ensures individuals, businesses, schools, hospitals, and governments are protected against cyberattacks,” Katko said in a statement, adding that a national cyber director would be a boost for national security.

Maloney noted that “the heightened cyber-attacks we’ve witnessed around the world in response to the coronavirus pandemic, including efforts to impede the U.S. response, demonstrate the urgent need for a National Cyber Director to ensure our nation’s cybersecurity strategy is streamlined, prioritized, and as effective as possible.”

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Former White House cybersecurity coordinator Michael Daniel, who served under former President Obama, backed the bill on Thursday.

“The need for greater coordination, focus, and clarity on cybersecurity within the U.S. government is clear,” Daniel said in a statement. “So, while I am normally skeptical about creating new positions as a solution to policy problems, establishing a National Cyber Director within the Executive Office of the President is the right approach for this situation.” 

While the bill was only introduced in the House on Thursday, Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSenate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads Romney, Collins, Murkowski won't attend GOP convention MORE (R-Wis.) expressed support last month for including a clause in this year's National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to establish a national cybersecurity director.

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the NDAA did not include this clause, but did include a requirement to carry out an assessment of the “feasibility” of creating the position.