- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Robert O’Brien, President Trump’s newest national security adviser, faced pressure Wednesday to reinstate a cybersecurity position eliminated under his predecessor, John R. Bolton.

The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, said that the “first act” Mr. O’Brien should do in office is bring back the role of White House cybersecurity coordinator, a key position created near the start of the Obama administration but phased out by Mr. Bolton in May 2018.

“Despite concerns raised when the position was eliminated last year, the White House has done little to address the vacuum left behind,” said Mr. Thompson, Mississippi Democrat.

“With cyber threats becoming more sophisticated and growing by the day, including the persistent threat to our election systems, there is no reason that the White House should have allowed this position to be eliminated,” Mr. Thompson said in a statement.

The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.

Established in early 2009, the White House cybersecurity coordinator position was created to lead “interagency development of cybersecurity-related strategy and policy,” according to the Obama administration. The job was eliminated shortly after the last person to hold the role, Rob Joyce, stepped down last spring, weeks into Mr. Bolton’s tenure as Mr. Trump’s third national security adviser.

A spokesperson for the National Security Council previously said that the position was eliminated to “improve efficiency, reduce bureaucracy and increase accountability.” Critics of the decision were quick to complain, however, raising concerns from both sides of the aisle on account of critical U.S. computer systems regularly being attacked.

“In our view, an empowered cybersecurity coordinator is needed to drive and oversee a comprehensive, White House-issued cybersecurity strategy to include deterrence, defense and network resilience that coordinates U.S. government efforts across the various departments and agencies,” Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, and Sen. Martin Heinrich, New Mexico Democrat, wrote Mr. Trump last after his administration gutted the position last May.

“America needs to send a strong message to allies and adversaries alike that we are committed to leading and solving complex cybersecurity issues,” a group of eight House Democrats wrote in a similar letter that month.

Mr. Trump announced earlier Wednesday that Mr. O’Brien, a chief hostage negotiator for the U.S. State Department, will serve as his fourth national security adviser following Mr. Bolton’s sudden ouster last week. They were preceded in office by Michael Flynn and H.R. McMaster.

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