- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2018

President Trump’s national security team is reportedly considering eliminating the White House’s top cybersecurity position following its current holder’s final day on the job Friday.

John Bolton, Mr, Trump’s recently appointed national security adviser, is leading a push to do away with the job of White House cybersecurity coordinator, Politico reported Wednesday, citing one current and two former U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Current cybersecurity coordinator Rob Joyce plans to leave the White House at the end of the week to resume his previous job running the National Security Agency’s Tailored Access Operations office, the NSA’s elite hacking team, and both Mr. Bolton and his deputy, Mira Ricardel, support potentially eliminating the coordinator position once he’s gone, two of the sources told Politico.

The White House did not deny the possibility of eliminating the role when reached for comment, Politico reported.

“Cyber is a key priority for the Trump Administration,” said Robert Palladino, a spokesman for the president’s National Security Council. The NSC, he added, was “committed to assembling an effective team to advance the President’s agenda of protecting Americans and American interests,” Politico reported.

The role of White House cybersecurity coordinator was created near the start of the Obama administration to help harmonize cybersecurity activities and policies across the federal government, and a report released in 2016 by the Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity recommended elevating the position to be on par with the president’s assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism.

Multiple former Obama officials raised concerns about potentially eliminating the cybersecurity coordinator position, especially given current threats faced by the U.S. and its allies by increasingly capable nation-states.

“This would be a huge step backwards,” tweeted Chris Painter, a former Obama administration official who served as the both the White House’s acting cybersecurity coordinator as well as the State Department’s coordinator for cyber issues. “Sending any signal that we are not prepared to lead makes a difference to our allies & adversaries alike.”

“Given the complexities of the issues that we face in cyberspace … you’re going to have to have somebody that’s focused on dealing with those issues at the White House level,” Michael Daniel, the Obama administration’s cyber coordinator from 2012 to 2017, told Politico.

Mr. Joyce has served as cybersecurity coordinator since March 2017, and he oversaw the Trump administration’s response to incidents including both the WannaCry and NotPetya malware attacks that crippled computers systems in the U.S. and abroad last year. He announced last month that he’ll return to the NSA, however, and Politico’s sources said that Mr. Joyce’s decision is based in part over frustrations related to Mr. Bolton, the president’s national security adviser since March, and particularly his handling of the NSC.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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