Security Experts:

Senators Ask National Security Advisor to Save Cybersecurity Coordinator Role

A group of Democrat senators is urging National Security Advisor John Bolton to reconsider the decision to eliminate the role of cybersecurity coordinator, arguing that it represents a step in the wrong direction.

Bolton announced the decision to cut the cybersecurity role following the departure of Rob Joyce. The National Security Council (NSC) said the move was part of an effort to streamline authority, noting that the duties of the cybersecurity coordinator would be taken over by two other senior directors.

“Streamlining management will improve efficiency, reduce bureaucracy and increase accountability,” the NSC said at the time.

Cybersecurity experts and several lawmakers contested the decision after it was announced. On Wednesday, Senator Amy Klobuchar and 18 other senators sent a letter to Bolton urging him to reconsider his recommendation, citing increasingly frequent and sophisticated cyber operations, particularly ones believed to have been launched by Russia.

“Our country’s cybersecurity should be a top priority; therefore, it is critically important that the U.S. government present a unified front in defending against cyberattacks,” the senators wrote. “Eliminating the Cybersecurity Coordinator role keeps us from presenting that unified front and does nothing to deter our enemies from attacking us again. Instead, it would represent a step in the wrong direction.”

While there are a few private-sector cybersecurity professionals who applaud the decision, many believe eliminating the role is a big mistake.

“The removal of the cybersecurity position will leave the Trump administration flat footed the next time a major cyber event does happen. In situations where minutes matter, the most prepared person in the room almost always carries the day. In a room full of decision makers with no cyber security background and a general who is in charge of fighting cyber wars, it is a foregone conclusion as to whom will have the strongest voice in the room,” Ross Rustici, senior director of intelligence services at Cybereason, told SecurityWeek.

“Every cyber event will become a military issue with a military solution. Regardless of the efficacy of the position or those who occupied it, the fact that the position existed demonstrated a commitment to understanding, managing, and responding to cyber threats in a way that was on par with the other major global issues of the day. The absorption of that position into someone else’s duties makes cyber outside of the military context an ‘other duties as assigned’ mission. This will lead to a marginalization of the knowledge and strategy,” Rustici added.

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.