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Congressional Cybersecurity Leaders Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Establish a National Cyber Director

Jun 25, 2020
Press Release
Director would serve as the President’s principal advisor on cybersecurity, lead national-level coordinator for cyber strategy and policy

(Washington, DC) – Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) today joined Cyberspace Solarium Commissioner Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) and other bipartisan colleagues in introducing The National Cyber Director Act to create the position of a National Cyber Director within the White House. The Director would serve as the President’s principal advisor on cybersecurity and associated emerging technology issues and function as the lead national-level coordinator for cyber strategy and policy.
The creation of a National Cyber Director is a major recommendation of the Solarium Commission, a Congressionally-chartered group that includes members of Congress and the Administration, as well as private sector leaders. Pillar One of the Commission’s report, which was released in March, involves reforming the government, and creating a strong director in the White House is a “key recommendation.”

In the George W. Bush Administration, Howard Schmidt and Richard Clarke served as “special” cybersecurity advisers to the President. In December 2009, President Obama created the position of White House Cybersecurity Coordinator and appointed Schmidt to it. Michael Daniel also held the position under Obama, and Rob Joyce served as Cybersecurity Coordinator under President Trump. The position was eliminated in 2018 by then National Security Adviser John Bolton.

The National Cyber Director would fulfill a similar policy role to the Cybersecurity Coordinator, but the position would be backed with additional statutory authority to review cybersecurity budgets and coordinate national incident response.

“We have great leaders in cybersecurity throughout the federal government, but we need a cyber quarterback,” said former House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Ruppersberger. “We need a central, coordinating authority figure in the White House to ensure we have a thoughtful federal cyber budget, to call the shots when we’re responding to an attack and to create better partnerships with our private-sector partners. There’s been broad, bipartisan support for this for years, and I urge my colleagues to support this legislation that will make us all safer.”

The National Cyber Director would be appointed by the President subject to Senate confirmation and would head an office within the Executive Office of the President. They would oversee and coordinate federal government incident response activities, collaborate with private sector entities, and attend and participate in meetings of the National Security Council and Homeland Security Council. The Director would develop and oversee implementation of a National Cyber Strategy to defend the nation’s interests and critical infrastructure against malicious cyber actors. They would also participate in the preparation for cybersecurity summits and other international meetings in which cybersecurity is a focus.

In their report, the Solarium Commissioners wrote: “The executive branch should be restructured and streamlined in order that clear responsibilities and authorities over cyberspace can be established while it is empowered to proactively develop, implement, and execute its strategy for cyberspace…. More consolidated accountability for harmonizing the executive branch’s policies, budgets, and responsibilities in cyberspace while it implements strategic guidance from the President and Congress is needed to achieve coherence in the planning, resourcing, and employing of government cyber resources.” The Commissioners reiterated the need for coordination out of the White House in their recently published pandemic white paper, which highlighted the parallels between the COVID-19 public health emergency and a potential cyber incident.
Click here for the full text of the bill.
Click here for an excerpt from the Solarium Commission’s Report regarding the National Cyber Director.

Other bill sponsors include solarium co-chair Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI), House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure and Innovation John Katko (R-NY) and Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee’s Subcommittee on Intelligence Modernization and Readiness Will Hurd (R-TX).