- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 3, 2020

Congress will consider establishing a national cyber director role, a Senate-nominated position within the Executive Office of the President, a lawmaker supporting the effort said Thursday.

Rep. Jim Langevin, Rhode Island Democrat and commissioner of the bipartisan Cyberspace Solarium Commission, said language establishing the position has been added to an annual defense spending bill.

Mr. Langevin previously introduced a proposed National Cyber Director Act that would create the position, and he said it is now included in the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, for 2021.

Creating the director position to coordinate cyber-related issues within the federal government was among the main recommendations made by the solarium in a report the group released in March.

The solarium, which itself was established as a result of being included in the 2019 defense bill, recommended the national cyber director position be created to serve as the president’s “principal advisor for cybersecurity related issues, both within government and with the private sector.”

“With increased reliance on information technology infrastructure for communication, commerce and personal use, as well as national security purposes, it is more critical than ever that there is an expert bringing all the elements of government together and ensuring that we are pulling oars in the same direction to protect Americans,” Mr. Langevin said in a statement.

“The National Cyber Director Act represents a paradigmatic shift in how the government handles cybersecurity,” Mr. Langevin added.

A similar role, the White House cybersecurity coordinator, previously existed but was eliminated under President Trump by his former national security adviser, John R. Bolton, in 2018.

The House of Representatives is set to consider the NDAA next week. The Senate will have to pass it before it can be considered by the president, although Mr. Trump has threatened to veto it before.

Members of Congress serving on House and Senate intelligence committees spoke earlier Thursday about potentially adopting the solarium’s recommendation under the incoming Biden administration.

Rep. Will Hurd, Texas Republican, and Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat, each agreed that important factors include the qualifications of the person appointed as well as the extent of their role.

Mr. Hurd, a former CIA analyst serving on the House Intelligence Committee, said putting one person in charge of coordinating cyber issues within the government could result in others losing focus.

“We could get a good one. But my fear around this particular issue is that everybody should be focused on this. We can’t just have one person setting the policy,” said Mr. Hurd.

“I think how President Biden wants to view his national security staff and where he wants to put someone, I think that is up to them on how to pursue this issue,” Mr. Hurd added.

Mr. Warner, the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, agreed the role would require the right candidate while echoing his colleague’s concerns about the extent of that person’s authority.

“You probably need somebody in the White House whose got this responsibility. But are we really going to empower that person with the enough tools to bring all of the public side of the house and the private side of the house to bear?” asked Mr. Warner. “I don’t know.”

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