State Department Cybersecurity Boosted Under House-Passed Bill

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By Daniel R. Stoller

A House-passed bill to revamp the State Department’s defunct cybersecurity office is an effort to increase security policy cooperation with international allies.

The House Jan. 17 passed by voice vote the Cyber Diplomacy Act ( H.R. 3776). The measure would create an Office of Cyber Issues to replace the Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues dissolved by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in 2017. The office would be run by a presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed ambassador who would report directly to the undersecretary of political affairs.

The bill, sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), comes as cyberthreats, including the recent Russia attack on the Senate’s email system, menace the U.S. government and the private sector. Russia and China were both named by Royce and Engel for their restrictive internet policies.

The Cyber Diplomacy Act would task State to work with allies to create U.S. cybersecurity policy road maps and plans for how the Trump administration would deal with ongoing security threats to critical infrastructure, such as the energy, telecommunications, and shipping sectors. The office would likely consider creating a secure internet and promoting rights for data breach victims, according to a statement from Royce and Engel.

The Senate will now have the chance to take up the bill. The White House hasn’t released a statement on how it views the legislation.

A State Department spokesperson told Bloomberg Law Jan. 17 that the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation, but looks “forward to working with Congress as the bill proceeds through the process.” The agency’s redesign will enable “State to more effectively fulfill its role in leading the international community on cyber policy and protecting the United States against threats to critical infrastructure,” the spokesperson said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel R. Stoller in Washington at dstoller@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Donald Aplin at daplin@bloomberglaw.com

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